1. Judge a book by its cover!
We’ve all heard the saying “never judge a book by its cover” and while it’s true that looks aren’t everything, with books they can sometimes be a good indicator of quality. That’s not say that there aren’t books with excellent information inside which have poorly designed, unattractive front covers. However, often a good cover can be an indicator of how much the publisher cares about the book. Publishing companies, big and small, work hard to make a nice appealing front cover for books they care about. Authors who self-publish (like me) may not always have the resources of a large publishing house, but we work hard to present books to you and your children in the best possible way.
2. An Index
Even before I look at the contents, I’ll look at the index. An index is a better indicator of the topics covered in the book than the list of contents. Here you can easily see whether or not the topics listed tie in to what your child is learning at school (or not learning but needs to know!).
3. A Glossary
Usually located before the index, a glossary is a special mini-dictionary. It gives a full, easy-to-understand definition of words that might be new to the reader. Most children read more fiction than non-fiction books so may not be familiar with the way informational books are structured. Make sure you point out the different parts of information books to your child – contents, index, glossary, and chapters – as not all schools do this. Be sure to point out that the glossary is there to help them learn the meaning of the words highlighted (usually in bold) as they are used in the book.
The information in the book is important of course, but a pleasing layout makes a more enjoyable book for your child to read. That makes the experience better for you too. Look at illustrations, photos and sidebars as well as any maps, diagrams and charts. Do they look attractive and interesting? Information books are to help your child enjoy learning new things.
5. Dealing with difficult topics
Some nonfiction books deal with topics like bullying, illness, death, war and enslavement. Make sure the level of detail is appropriate for your child’s age. As a general guideline, books aimed at ages 8 to 12 should not omit vital information, but need not include explicit details. If your child is interested in, for example, enslavement then the book needs to explain that Africans were brought to the Americas against their will.
It should not give the impression that the journey was a leisure cruise. However, detailed descriptions of the brutal horrors of the Middle Passage are not appropriate for this age group.