How do you go about looking for a new book to read? If you’re like most enthusiastic adult readers you probably take to social media sites like Twitter to see what other people are reading and what they are saying about the books. You might also be using the app Goodreads and share “bookshelves” with others so you can get recommendations from friends. Finally, you might be part of a book club (face-to-face or virtual) or just have friends and family that recommend books to you. These are authentic, real world ways readers find and discuss interesting new books.
To expose young readers to different genres, make stacks of books representing various genres of children’s literature. Then create a sign with the name and brief description of each genre, and place the signs and corresponding books on tables around the classroom. Invite students to rotate from table to table and skim through the books to decide if they want to list any on their “menu” for reading later. (Decorating the setting to resemble a restaurant and serving a snack can make this activity more fun.) By including expository nonfiction as one of the genres, students who may not gravitate toward these books have a chance to be enticed by them and info-kids who love these books get exposed to new titles.
This year one of our schools held A Family Literacy Night with book-tasting stations in conjunction with our local town library. Families “tasted” books and discovered that nonfiction can make great bedtime read alouds. Families could borrow some of the books on their “menu” from the library. (This meant the families needed a library card, which was an added bonus.)
In their book, Disrupting Thinking, Kylene Beers and Robert Probst write, “Nonfiction should not suggest nonfeeling” (p. 49). Get your students excited about reading expository nonfiction for the feelings—not just the information—they get from it with Book Talks during snack, right before or after lunch/recess, or when a classroom book order arrives.
Briefly highlight each book with a “hook” that captures students’ interest and gives them some details without giving it all away. Read a short excerpt or show a visual that will engage young readers. Then be sure to display the book so students can investigate it further. If you give a book your blessing, chances are students will want to read it.
As the year progresses, and students have seen you model expository nonfiction book talks in which you discuss the content and craft moves and also describe how a book makes you feel, invite students to lead book talks. Encourage the class to make a “someday list” of books they’d like to read.
To start conversations about expository nonfiction, use an Anticipation Guide by making a short list of 5 to 7 statements related to a book’s content, main ideas, or issues. They can be written so that students respond to each with “true” or “false” or “agree” or “disagree.” Students can respond orally or in writing. The idea is for the teacher to choose statements that will get students thinking about the author’s purpose and move them from literal to deeper understanding of the text.
For example, before reading a book about dangerous bugs students are given the statement: A black widow spider is more dangerous than a rattlesnake. After students think and share their opinions, conversations can take place about differences of opinion, supported by reasoning or personal background that individual students may bring to the activity.
After reading the book, students return to the Anticipation Guide and respond to the same statements, this time using evidence from the text to support their reasons.
|Infographic from Pinocchio Rex and |
You can also spark conversations by displaying interesting or unique visuals (photos, graphs, infographics, tables) from different nonfiction books around the room and asking students what they notice. As students to pose questions, make predictions, and share their curiosity about the visual pieces, you’ll see the specific expertise and background knowledge of students in certain topics begin to shine. Then, with some fanfare, reveal the books associated with the visuals and display them prominently so students can read them.
Dr. Marlene Correia is the Director of Curriculum and Assessment for the Freetown-Lakeville Regional School District in Lakeville, MA. Marlene has 15 years of experience in K-8 education as a classroom teacher and special educator. Dr. Correia has also taught undergraduate and graduate education courses at Framingham State and Bridgewater State University. She is the co-author of Informational Texts in Pre-Kindergarten through Grade-Three Classrooms. Dr. Correia is a past-president of the Massachusetts Reading Association.