Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Exploring Nonfiction With New Readers: Wolfsnail by Sarah Campbell, Butterflies and Moths by Nic Bishop, About (series) by Cathryn Sill

One of the things I emphasize when I'm working with new readers is the importance of not thinking of selecting books as a linear process - first boardbooks, then picturebooks, then easy readers, then chapter books, then harder chapterbooks, etc. Parents, teachers, and other caregivers should continue to read aloud to beginning readers for many reasons, including building vocabulary, maintaining interest in reading, encouraging fluency, and just for fun! The nonfiction books I'd like to look at today are ideally suited for adult-child interaction, especially with early readers.

I've briefly mentioned Wolfsnail by Sarah C. Campbell previously, when it received a Geisel Honor, but let's take a closer look! The simple text tells in riveting detail the progress of a wolfsnail as it stalks its prey. The reader learns many details about these giant snails and how they feed. The vocabulary level is simple enough for most intermediate readers to read on their own. Beginning readers will need some help with the longer words. I encourage adults to listen to the child's reading - and help with the longer vocabulary words, then spend some time reading aloud the extended information about wolfsnails at the back of the book, or visit the Campbells' website and talk about their amazing photography! The simple text also makes an excellent read-aloud for elementary students. I also recommend Sarah Campbell's newest book, Growing Patterns.

Any of Nic Bishop's books in this series are excellent for beginning readers (Frogs, Spiders, Marsupials) but today we're going to look at Nic Bishop's Butterflies and Moths. Each page has a fascinating photographic spread accompanied by several paragraphs of text. Within the text is a bolded sentence in large print. Additional information about the photograph is included in small italics. When I use these books in storytime, I use the bolded text as a starting point for interactive reading, as the children and I discuss the photographs and facts presented. When working with an early reader, I suggest having the adult read the regular text, then listen to the child read the bolded text. An intermediate reader will be ready to tackle some of the regular text which has fairly simple vocabulary. Longer clumps of information at the back of the book can be read and discussed with an adult.

The final series I would like to recommend is Cathryn and John Sill's About guides for children. These cover habitats and a wide variety of animals. The book pictured here is About Reptiles: A Guide for Children. Each spread features a line of simple text on one half and a detailed and lifelike painting of a reptile on the other half. For example, the first page reads "Reptiles have dry, scaly skin." and the second page shows a Rough Green Snake. Beginning and intermediate readers can easily handle the text and adults can explain the read the longer descriptions of the animals pictured in the back, where brief discussions of their habitats, behavior, and place in the ecosystem accompanies thumbnails of the previous spreads.

Don't just stick to the easy reader shelf with your new reader! Explore the picturebooks and nonfiction for more books that can be read together and encourage a lifelong habit of reading, learning, and curiosity about the world around them!


Terry Doherty said...

"Parents, teachers, and other caregivers should continue to read aloud to beginning readers for many reasons, including building vocabulary, maintaining interest in reading, encouraging fluency, and just for fun!" I love this Jennifer. Your emphasis on exploring is something we seem to overlook as kids get older ... I admit sometimes I rush to get from one cover to the other!

Jennifer said...

I should have added also that reading aloud and reading together is a great way to continue communicating with your child as they grow older and things get busier with school and other activities - you can still bond over a fun book!