January - for me anyway - has been all facts! I am knee-deep in nonfiction right now and absolutely loving it. Truth be told, I've always loved informational books (think: historical fiction).
When I was tutoring, I loved using nonfiction picture books and easy readers because the format allows kids to explore without having to remember story arcs or characters. Here's what sharing nonfiction has taught me ...
- Kids actually read more text because they want to learn more about what's in that picture.
- Readers retain more because they would absorb a specific fact or select set of information.
- Fidgety readers could move all around the book - read page 10 before page 3 - and not "miss" anything.
To paraphrase our friends at Reading Rainbow, there is no end to what we can learn in a book. Readers of all ages can enjoy a nonfiction book, if for no other reason they have pictures to look at. To demonstrate that idea, I thought I'd share two books from Rourke Educational Media and show how they can be used with readers of different readiness levels.
Arctic Appetizers: Studying Food Webs in the Arctic
by Gwendolyn Hooks
Rourke Publishing, 2009
length: 35 pages
As you can see from the reading and interest levels, this book is meant for independent readers. There is lots of text and big words that young readers may not understand or be able to decipher. Younger readers will be lured by the cute seals, arctic fox, and colorful photography.
Left to explore the book, they can get a lot out of it just by looking at the pictures and reading the photo captions and the "Chew on This" insets. Sitting with a child, parents and caregivers can either read or paraphrase the more detailed information.
Around the World with Money
by Tim Clifford
Rourke Publishing, 2009
length 36 pages
Although this book is for an elementary audience, the reading level is at the high end of that group. There are concepts (like ISO codes) that young students wouldn't understand; but the book is peppered with "Interesting Fun Facts" that are simple, one-sentence pieces of trivia about money around the world (like why the 2-dollar Canadian coin is called a toonie).
There are so many topics you can talk about using this book as your starting point. Pull out a globe and it is a chance to introduce children to other places in the world. Diverse school populations open doors for students to bring in samples of money from their homeland, or maybe what things cost ... which leads us to math. That fabulous picture of US currency (above) could help a first or second grader learning about money see the items side by side, front and back.
The great thing about books that cross reading readiness levels is that they have a great shelf life. What started as an interest in looking at cute seal pictures in first grade becomes a handy resource for the ecosystems project in fifth!