Monday, January 8, 2018

5 Faves: Expository Nonfiction Recommended by Shelly Moody

For the last two years, my colleague, Valerie Glueck, and I have coordinated a March Madness Nonfiction Picture Book reading event in our school. We decided to center our celebration around nonfiction, as we felt it was a neglected genre in classroom read alouds.

The goal of this event is to inspire curiosity, to build background knowledge, and to put outstanding nonfiction books in the hands of our students. March Madness has grown into a collaborative event for our entire school community that culminates in school-wide assembly (complete with a soundtrack and spotlights!) to announce the winner. It’s hard to capture in words the energy and excitement about books that March Madness has created in our literacy community.

Just as Pernille Ripp spends an entire year searching for books for her Global Read Aloud project, Valerie and I are fortunate to spend the year searching for nonfiction read alouds that we want to include in our tournament. Although there will be sixteen outstanding books in our bracket, here are five of my favorite expository nonfiction contenders for this year's celebration.

Can An Aardvark Bark? by Melissa Stewart (Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster, 2017)
Students at Williams Elementary School are fans of Melissa Stewart and Steve Jenkins, so there's no doubt that Can an Aardvark Bark? will be a favorite in this year's tournament. Readers will explore similarities and differences in animal sounds through this engaging text. In addition to the repeating question and answer format, Stewart’s captivating facts are well-paired with Jenkins incredible illustrations. This book will inspire curious readers of all ages to ask their own questions.

Give Bees A Chance by Bethany Barton (Viking/Penguin Random House, 2017)
We love reading aloud books that arm students with facts while encouraging them to reflect on their opinions. Give Bees A Chance will stretch students’ thinking about bees and hopefully encourage them to reflect on the positive aspects of this hard-to-love insect. The narrator of this text is hilarious and persuasive as he presents facts about types of bees, the history of bees, and the role of bees in transporting pollen in order to convince his best friend of the many reasons to appreciate bees.  

Grand Canyon by Jason Chin (Roaring Book/Macmillan, 2017)
Jason Chin will take our readers on a journey through the breathtaking Grand Canyon, introducing rock layers, plants, animals and the layers of the canyon in this beautifully illustrated text. Written with incredible descriptions and details, the book also compares the Grand Canyon from millions of years ago to today’s magnificent landform. Not to be missed are the endpapers and extensive backmatter. Readers will want to spend lots of time poring over the details and incredible illustrations in this book, which makes it an outstanding March Madness contender and nonfiction mentor text.

If Sharks Disappeared by Lily Williams (Roaring Book/Macmillan, 2017)
It's important to share books that inspire students to ask “What if...” If Sharks Disappeared confronts the impact of the loss of sharks on the ocean, animals across the planet, and even humans. Lily Williams presents her argument through an adorable narrator who shares information about sharks, food chains, and balanced ecosystems. This book will be great to pair in the bracket with the narrative nonfiction title Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean's Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating.

It's going to be tough to beat Pink is for Blobfish, our 2016 March Madness winner. Students will be thrilled to explore Jess Keating's newest collection of monsters found in nature. The layout of this book is supportive with headings to catch the reader’s attention, sidebars with organized information about each monster, and fact boxes containing captivating facts. Just as students loved Pink is for Blobfish, I know they will be excited to investigate shocking facts about monsters from all around the world as they determine for themselves what really makes a monster.  

Our March Madness bracket always includes biographies, as well as nonfiction about inventions, important events, or famous landmarks. Books that expose students to rarely discussed animals, people, and places often make the best read aloud selections. The final result of our reading tournament is more than a book champion. March Madness has energized our teachers to value informational texts as powerful read alouds to share with our students. Most of all, it has fostered curiosity about our world in our readers and connected our school community around a shared love of nonfiction books.

Shelly Moody is a literacy coach supporting teachers and students in grades K-5 in Oakland, Maine. She taught third, fourth, and fifth grade for fifteen years before moving into her coaching role three years ago.  In 2011, she was honored to be named Maine’s Teacher of the Year.

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