If a spread is bursting with text features, which should you read first? At what point should you read the main text? What about the captions? Should you discuss the photos or illustrations? How much time should you spend on each page?
I don’t think there are any absolute answers to these questions, in part because what works well for a third grader class may not be appropriate for first graders. In addition, the children in each class may bring different kinds of prior knowledge to the reading experience.
Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Carol Scrimeour, the fantastic teacher-librarian at Essex Elementary School in Essex Junction, Vermont, read my book No Monkeys, No Chocolate aloud to a group of first graders, and I was so impressed with her method that I wanted to share it here.
The main text on the first spread of the book ends with an ellipsis (as does the main text throughout the book). After reading the words, she explained what an ellipsis is and how it’s used.
She let students know that they would encounter more ellipses as they read the book, and encouraged the children to say “dot, dot, dot” as a chorus each time an ellipsis appeared. After discussing the artwork briefly, Carol pointed out the bookworms in the corner and read their dialog. As the students laughed at the joke, Carol let them know they’d see these same bookworms again. Then she turned the page.
As Carol finished reading the main text on the second spread, the students all said “dot, dot, dot” right on cue. Then Carol shared the secondary text, the artwork, and the bookworm dialog.
After the students had a good laugh, Carol did something that had never occurred to me but worked like a charm. She re-read the main text before turning the page. This helped to maintain continuity from one spread the next, so students could more easily keep track of the book’s main ideas. Brilliant!
This is a strategy that would work well with any book that has layered text. You may want to give it a try.