My teacher world and my parenting world have been colliding quite a bit lately. I am reading a book about reading (I know how nerdy can I be?!) right now for school, and it has inspired me to make some changes in what I read with the boys as well.
Just in case you are curious (here’s hoping some of you are as nerdy as I am, lol), the name of the reading books is Reading Reconsidered: A Practical Guide to Rigorous Literacy Instruction and it is written by Doug Lemov (the author of Teach Like a Champion), Colleen Driggs, and Erica Woolway.
One of the biggest revelations that the book (along with a detailed SUPER-nerdy spreadsheet of which standards I spend my time on in class) has led me to is that I NEED more nonfiction in my life, in my students’ lives, and in my kids’ lives.
One of the books most important claims is that students have trouble comprehending, or at least making inferences about, nonfiction (and sometimes even fiction) not necessarily because they are lacking comprehension/inferencing skills, but because they do not have the necessary background knowledge that would allow them to comprehend/infer. It points to a study given to elementary age students where the kids were given a difficult passage about baseball. The students who knew little about baseball, even though they had great comprehension skills, did poorly. The students who knew a lot about baseball, even though they had poor comprehension skills, did well.
As an English teacher, I love fiction! And while I have always used nonfiction as background information for my literature, I have left most of it to the other subjects. The kids get soooo much nonfiction in science and social studies… right??
Students do get a lot of nonfiction in those classes, but I as an English teacher, and a mother, have a unique opportunity to broaden the scope of nonfiction that my students, and children, are exposed to. Reading Reconsidered changed my mind. And it convinced me to start adding a regular diet of nonfiction to the books I read with my own boys. Here is the quote that sent me over the edge: “The importance of background knowledge raises a chicken-or-egg type of problem for teachers. Students lack content knowledge in part because they don’t read nonfiction well, and they don’t read nonfiction well because they lack the content knowledge. If we need background knowledge to build background knowledge, where and how do we start?
Ok…so…done. I start now!
It can be overwhelming to know where to start though. Obviously you want to pick things your kiddos are interested in. It is easier with the 3 ¼ yo right now, as he is super interested in dinosaurs and construction equipment and really whatever book we read will be fine with him – he’s 3. However, the 6 ¾ yo is a little more difficult. One, he is past the dinosaur/construction equipment obsessive stage. And two, I want to expose him to more that may actually be useful in life. He does love science, so we are going to be looking for more science books in the near future, but I also want to expand his horizons as much as possible.
Another important point according to Reading Reconsidered is that kids need to be exposed to nonnarrative nonfiction. So while biographies and memoirs are great, they are the most similar to fiction and the patterns of text that kids are already familiar with. Whereas nonnarrative nonfiction books “that lack a beginning, middle, and end or an identifiable storyteller, or that employ different organizing principles, for example – pose a much bigger challenge.”
Soooo … what to read??
Enter – Lift-the-flap General Knowledge. It’s perfect!
It is interactive (come on… who doesn’t love a lift-the-flap book?!). It is interesting. And it covers so. many. things!
It is not a book we read in one sitting, but it is a book that allows us to have multiple conversations about a myriad of topics just by looking through it. And I don’t know about your kiddos, but my 6 ¾ yo loves True-or-False questions! This book is full of them!!
When I ordered it, I was not sure when we would get around to looking at it, but all of this teacher/mom research has led me to appreciate it more than I ever knew I would.
As mentioned in previous posts, I LOVE Usborne books for many reasons, but their plethora of nonfiction titles is quickly becoming a huge one!
Also, because I can’t seem to write a post without something else showing up that I want to share, this New York Times article popped up on my Facebook (through WeAreTeachers Reading – an awesome follow if you are interested in reading and education) about why we as a country struggle with reading. Here is the link:
Reading Reconsidered: A Practical Guide to Rigorous Literacy Instruction – by Doug Lemov, Colleeen Driggs, and Erica Woolway
*Lift-the-Flap General Knowledge – by Alex Firth & James Maclaine
Here are a few of the nonfiction dinosaur books we love to read with the little one as well!
National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Dinosaurs by Catherine D. Hughes
199 Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals – an Usborne book by Hannah Watson
Oh Say Can You Say Di-no-saur a Dr. Suess Book by Bonnie Worth
*Please note – Usborne is a consultant-based business. If you already have a consultant, contact them to order. If not, this page links to my consultant, Christina Martin. She is also a mother of two boys and a book enthusiast! Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.