What is Informational Text?
Informational text is a subset of the larger category of nonfiction (Duke & Bennett-Armistead, 2003). Its primary purpose is to inform the reader about the natural or social world. Different from fiction, and other forms of nonfiction, informational text does not utilize characters. Further, it has specialized language characteristics such as general nouns and timeless verbs that are not common in other genres. Some examples of this structure would be: “Dogs bark;” “Some sea snakes are quite deadly;” or “Apples can be red, yellow, or even green!”
Authors of informational text employ a variety of structures to assist the reader in finding information quickly and efficiently. These might include a table of contents, an index, bold or italicized text, glossaries for specialized vocabulary, embedded definitions for specialized vocabulary, realistic illustrations of photos, captions and other labels, and graphs and charts. Unlike narratives that tell a story across time in a linear fashion, informational text is often (though not always) non-linear. It is popular with skillful and non-skillful readers as it is usually topical and readers can locate a text on nearly any topic of interest. Some examples of types of informational text include cause-and-effect books, “all about…” books, question-and-answer books, and most reference texts.
The quality of informational text can be judged in a variety of ways. For this award, we will examine the texts with an eye on the following categories.
Accuracy of Content: Is the content timely, accurate and direct? Is this text likely to advance a young child’s world knowledge?
Authority of Authorship: What are the qualifications of the author on this topic? Were collaborators consulted?
Accessibility to the Age Group (birth to age 8): While the text does not have to appeal to the entire age range, does the primary audience fall within the range?
Fidelity to Genre: Does the text employ features of informational text? If other genres are also present, such as in informational poetry, is the primary purpose to inform about the natural or social world? Is this a clear example of informational text?
Appeal to Children of Age Group: Is the text on a topic of interest to young children? Is the design manageable for a young child? Do the features support young children’s interaction with the text? Do the features assist young children in comprehending the content?
What informational text IS NOT:
- A biography
- A procedural text (such as cook books or craft directions)
- A joke book
- A text with characters
We know that when exposed to a variety of genres, even very young children can tell the differences between them and identify features of the texts. Additionally we know that exposure to and instruction using informational text can significantly impact young children’s developing world knowledge as well as their ability to comprehend text. Thank you for joining us as we advance exemplary informational text for young children!
Drawn from: Duke, N.K & Bennett-Armistead, V.S. (2003). Reading and writing informational text in the primary grades: Research based practices. New York: Scholastic.