Types of Nonfiction in Children’s Books

Today we’re going to investigate the different types of writing used in children’s nonfiction books.

Do you remember the different types of essays you wrote in college? Remember sweating over expository, descriptive, narrative and persuasive (also called argumentative) essays? If you do, then it turns out you already know the main types of nonfiction.



Expository writing informs the reader or offers an explanation. Examples of children’s books that use the expository style include many biographies and concept books. I’m using an expository style in this post. If you are a fan of nonfiction, then expository style is your comfort zone.

Expository and informational are sometimes used interchangeably, but be careful because the term informational – correctly or incorrectly – may also used broadly to cover any nonfiction work.


Descriptive writing employs words to evoke all the senses and creature a vivid, multidimensional image of a person, place, thing or event. Descriptive writing is the spices in the cake, so to speak, because you can see them, smell them, taste them and maybe even feel them.


Narrative writing is very popular in children’s nonfiction right now. It simply means telling a story, using the standard techniques of storytelling. Stories have characters, setting and a plot. Usually there’s an introduction, some sort of rising conflict and a conclusion. When done well, this is a powerful technique. When forced or artificial, it can make readers wish they were reading fiction.


Persuasive or argumentative writing is about taking a side and trying to persuade your reader to come on board. Examples of persuasive writing might be a book convincing children to do something about an endangered species or encouraging them to eat healthy meals.


The types of nonfiction are coming into the spotlight now because of the new focus on nonfiction in the Common Core standards. Some educators, however, may hesitate to adopt this terminology.

See for example, this quote:

Children’s literature experts confuse, rather than clarify, the issue by using such terms as informational books, information books,and expository texts.

From:  What Do Classroom Teachers Need to Know About Nonfiction for Children?
Barbara Kiefer, PhD, Issue #3, January 2013 (available as a .pdf)

What do you think? Do you think these categories are too confusing? Are some of them used as synonyms for all types of nonfiction?


Purdue Owl is a great resource for writing and has information about essay types decribed above


Join us every Tuesday for:


Have a blog post about writing for children? Feel free to leave it in the comments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: