Many children love historical fiction, and teachers and parents like it because it helps teach a period in history that’s in the curriculum. I chose to write a historical fiction novel because of my background as a teacher and of how much I loved to read novels like Little House on the Prairie and Sarah, Plain and Tall when I was young. But do children understand the difference between historical fiction and history/nonfiction books? This is a quick mini-lesson you can do to introduce the genre, work on compare and contrast, or just make sure children understand the difference and the benefits of reading both!
1. Draw a Venn diagram on the board or on a piece of paper. Children can do their own, too.
3. Ask children to tell you some characteristics of both–for example: “True facts.” This could actually go in the middle because nonfiction books are full of true facts, but so is historical fiction. Another example would be: “Made-up characters” This should only go in the historical fiction side. “Real people”–this could go in both because real people often show up in historical fiction books–such as General Grant and General Pemberton who are both in my book, Finding My Place, but they, of course, were also in real life.
4. Once the Venn diagram is filled out, write some sentences (conclusions) that you can draw from the activity. For example: Historical fiction has made-up characters, and nonfiction history books do not. Sometimes, authors will put real historical figures in historical fiction books.
5. The important conclusion to draw is that although historical fiction is based on fact, there’s a lot of fiction. Nonfiction history books SHOULD BE filled with only facts!