When I plan a nonfiction read aloud, I ask myself a lot of questions. What parts of the book should I highlight? Should I skip over anything? Would additional visuals or props improve the audience’s experience? Would using a document camera help? Sometimes I make the right decisions on the first try. But other times, the kids surprise me, and I make adjustments as I go along.
For Can an Aardvark Bark?, I thought K-2 students would be excited to make the animal sounds throughout the book’s main text. But I worried that reading the spreads that featured secondary text about four animal examples might be too much. I considered reading just the main text and pointing out the four exemplar animals shown, but that would mean skipping over a lot of cool information.
When I asked author Josh Funk (@joshfunkbooks) for advice, he suggested that I read just one or two of the examples.
“And kids can choose the examples,” I said, piggybacking on his idea. I was confident that this combination of strategies—making animal sounds and choosing animal examples—would make for a great read aloud. But I was wrong.
It turns out the K-2 students weren’t as enthusiastic about making the animal sounds as I expected. What captivated them was the information. They stayed quiet so they wouldn’t miss a thing.
Luckily, my other strategy—letting students choose the animal examples—was a huge hit. On pages where the vote was close, I read the two top choices, and everyone was happy.
What was my take away from this experience? I was delighted to discover that the thing kids liked most about the book—the fascinating information about how and why animals communicate—was the same thing that inspired me to write it in the first place. What could be better than that?