Friday, January 29, 2016

Persuasive Writing Text Set

We all know the value of mentor texts, so when Jenny Lussier, the fabulous library media specialist at Brewster School in Durham, CT, tweeted this:

I took her request seriously.

Back in November 2014, I wrote this post about persuasive books. It describes how surprised I was when an article in Book Links included my book A Place for Bats on a list of persuasive books.

To be sure, anyone who reads A Place for Bats would realize that I have a point of view (we should protect bats and their habitats), but as I saw it, I was merely laying out the facts and letting the reader decide. That wasn’t really persuasive, was it? Hmm, maybe it was, though in a subtle way.

That seems to be the approach many nonfiction children’s books take. Authors have an idea they’re passionate about and want to share, so they provide facts, evidence for readers.

But as Jenny’s tweet points out, that isn’t quite the same as what we expect students to do when they write persuasive texts. And so what she wanted was a nonfiction book that really, truly, actively tried to convince readers to do something, to take action.

The first book that came to mind was Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems. But of course, that’s fiction.
Then I thought of a nonfiction title that fits the bill: The Most Amazing Creature in the Sea by Brenda Z. Guiberson. The author cleverly employs first person narration, allowing each sea creature to highlight its special features in an attempt to persuade readers that it is the most amazing. I think reading these two books together is a great way to prime the pumps, so to speak, of students trying to write persuasive pieces for the first time.

At the same time, I’d also suggest reading the early chapter book The Trouble with Ants by Claudia Mills. One of the book’s subplots involves a fourth grade class assignment to write persuasive essays and share them with the class. The book includes the essays written by the main character and two supporting characters. These make especially good models because they address topics that will really resonate with elementary students.

And when the children seem ready, I would go ahead and share nonfiction books that are persuasive in a more subtle way. Besides A Place for Bats, examples include City Chickens by Christine Heppermann and Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone. After all, in addition to learning how to craft debate-ready arguments, students should also have experience recognizing how an author’s point of view influences the way he or she presents information.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent distinctions made here. Thanks for these recs, Melissa. I'm going to make sure our librarian is aware of these.