#kidlit101 Nonfiction Board Book


It’s the first day of school here, so I am starting a new #kidlit101 series on my Writing Lessons blog. I’ll be updating the Writing Children’s Books class that I used to teach at SMU and turning it into a book. Each week the #kidlit101 series will examine a new book in a different genre: fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. As the weeks go by in this fall semester, we’ll grow with our young readers and move up from board books to YA, the books for young adults. Let’s begin . . .

What is a Board Book?

Board books for babies are named for their appearance. The pages of these first books are printed on thick boards with rounded edges and UV coating. Babies explore their world by tasting it. Yes, they put everything in their mouths. A UV coated book with thick washable pages (and no sharp edges) is a perfect match for this age.

Book Page Names

Board book pages are not usually numbered, so let’s use the printing terms to talk about what goes where. The front of a sheet of paper is called a leaf or a recto. In a book this sheet of paper is bound as the page on the right. The right hand page is the recto page.

The back of that page is the reverse, so it is called the reverso. Over the years that term has been shorted to verso. When a book is open, the page on the left is called the verso page. Together, the verso page (on the left) and the recto page (on the right) make up a book spread. A book spread is two facing pages.

Nonfiction Board Book

Most board books for babies are nonfiction books. They don’t have a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Instead, these board books have page after page of pictures with labels.

These pictures help the children learn language skills. As they “read” these books over and over again with their caregivers, infants see these common objects and hear their names. As they grow from infants to toddlers, children learn to say they names they hear and that leads to the recognition that print has meaning.


My First ABC (My 1st Board Book)
By DK Children

The alphabet is a common topic for very young nonfiction books. This nonfiction board book, My First ABC, is illustrated in the signature DK style with full color photographs on a white background.

On the book cover the title is placed above the photograph of a shiny red apple. And unlike the spelling used here (and the one used in the cataloging) the letters in the title are all lower case. So it reads: my first a b c (without any commas).

Inside the Book


The first spread inside the book is devoted to the letter A. This is the standard “one idea per page” pattern used in nonfiction for younger readers. The letters Aa are in the upper left, using the Western left to right and top to bottom reading pattern.

Under the Aa, there are three full color photos with labels on the left (verso) page. The first is the traditional apple from the book cover. But the other two photos are not traditional at all. The second photo shows two brown acorns on a twig. The third is an abacus with a hundred beads. The colors of the abacus beads change in each descending row just like a color wheel, adding another element for parents to talk about as children grow older.

On the facing (recto) page there are three labels: airplane, ants, and armadillo. The airplane is quite large, but the page is not to scale. The line of ants marching underneath the airplane takes up almost as much space on the page. At the bottom of the page is an armadillo.


On the next book is the next letter of the alphabet. Under the Bb on the left (verso) page, there are four full color photos with labels:


And on the right (the recto) page are five full color photos with labels:


Like the Aa page the photos on this Bb page show objects from real life in many colors and sizes. And so it goes as the pages turn from Aa to Zz. With one letter per book spread, there are lots of new photos to show.

Give Me Five!

Each book has different goals. There are different criteria for books at each age level, in each genre, and for each topic. What goals did this book meet?

My First ABC (My 1st Board Book) by DK:

  1. Has one idea per page
  2. To teach the alphabet
  3. With bright full color photos
  4. Of everyday objects a child knows
  5. And new objects to learn about

Now It’s Your Turn!

Is this the right genre for you? Consider your goals and your skill set. A nonfiction board book names items in the real world. The words in these books act as labels. They help children learn new words. If you are a photographer or an illustrator, this genre may be a place to showcase your skills.

Nonfiction Monday

It’s Nonfiction Monday!

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