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This paper examines change and variation in the design of non-fiction texts which have a junior-age readership. Using a multimodal analysis, which draws from Kress and Van Leeuwen’s work, it argues that different forms of presentation of non-fiction offer different ways of reading non-fiction texts, which as yet are neither fully described nor recognised. Using the contrasts between linear and non-linear design, the paper suggests that non-fiction texts can be more or less firmly orientated towards reading as work or reading as play, contrasts which readers’ own choices in different contexts of use make apparent. From this point of view, the eclecticism of the National Literacy Strategy’s references to non-fiction texts provides a starting point for renewed exploration of what non-fiction is and how it really works for its readers.