Welcome to 5 Great Books! Every Wednesday I share five books on a single topic for children learning to read. This week I’m taking part in the 2010 Share a story~Shape a Future literacy tour. Since I’m also the creator of Nonfiction Monday, I was invited to write about nonfiction for new readers.
When my son was two years old, he told me he didn’t want to read baby books anymore. He wanted to read real books. So we moved from the picture book shelves at the library to the nonfiction stacks. That’s where dinosaur books were.
Most of the books he wanted to read were much too old for him. (In those days they didn’t have many young nonfiction books.) So we looked at the pictures and talked about them. I read him the picture captions and when he asked questions about things that weren’t explained in the caption, I told him about the information in the book.
The 80/20 Rule
I read once that 80% of the public library’s collection is nonfiction, and yet for young readers we so often focus only on fiction books. At the same time, we watch lots of nonfiction on television.
The Best of Pro Football by Matt Doeden
Entire channels are devoted to nonfiction topics. Look at the cable lineup: The History Channel, the Discovery Channel, the Home and Garden Network, the Weather Channel…
Tornadoes by Mari Schuh
Most magazines for adult readers are also nonfiction. It’s rare to find a fiction story in a magazine today. Instead there are profiles of famous people, health and beauty articles, recipes and decorating tips, and articles about how to stretch your dollar.
How Many Pennies Make a Dollar? by Rebecca Wingard-Nelson
Why are we so reluctant to allow the very young to read nonfiction? I think it’s because nonfiction sounds like it is difficult to read. Let’s demystify nonfiction.
A common misconception is that fiction is story and nonfiction is information. This makes it look like an either/or choice, when in fact the two often overlap.
In historical fiction (stories set in the past) writers must accurately represent the time they are writing about. This requires research, and that involves factual information. Historical fiction is both history (fact) and story (fiction). Young readers learn new information about the past as they read the story. This is why parents and teachers find the Magic Tree House books so appealing. History is taught in a story.
Thanksgiving on Thursday
by Mary Pope Osborne (Author) and Sal Murdocca (Illustrator)
Nonfiction is also told as a story. This is called nonfiction narrative. That long name may be unfamiliar, until you realize it’s just another name for the six o’clock news. Narrative nonfiction is a “news story.” The stories on the TV news are often short, but some news stories, like the show Dateline, go deeper and as result, feel more like a story. It’s news, and that’s about facts, but what interests us is the story aspect, the WHY. We want to know why these people did what they did. We want to go behind the scenes, and find out more.
The Obama Family in Pictures by Jane Katirgis
My two-year-old son wasn’t looking for story. He was looking for facts. (I’m sure you know little boys like him.) He wanted to know more about dinosaurs. He wanted know how to say their names. He wanted information about their sizes. He wanted the stats. Writing that explains something is called expository writing. If you’re looking for information about a topic, you’re looking for expository writing. For all those little boys who love facts and stats, these are the books you want to find.
The Pebble First Guide to Dinosaurs by Sally Lee
For artists and athletes, there is another type of book you will find on the nonfiction shelves, the procedural book. These books show you “how to” do something. Cookbooks are procedural books, and so are books that show you how to ride a bike or hit a baseball. If your child wants to learn how to do something, you find these books in the nonfiction stacks. You’ll also find TV shows and TV channels devoted to procedurals as well. Look at all of fitness shows and home decorating programs. You may not think of them as nonfiction, but that’s what they are.
There’s one more thing on TV that is a great example of the fourth type of nonfiction writing, television commercials! TV commercials use what we call persuasive writing. They’re trying to convince you to do something. You do this as well when you ask your child to brush his teeth or clean his room. Books about healthy habits and how to save the planet are using persuasive writing. These books are also found in the nonfiction section.
Let’s Recycle by Anne L. Mackenzie
Nonfiction is Real Life, Written Down
Most of your child’s day is inside a book in the nonfiction stacks. Nonfiction is real life, written down. Today there are lots of simple nonfiction books for new readers. Nowadays, they are easy to find. Just look for the skinny books!
Don’t be afraid to take your child into the nonfiction stacks. Use the five finger test to see if your child can read the book by himself. If the book is too hard, borrow it anyway to read aloud to your child during your 20 minutes a day. (Remember the Daily 5!) Talk about the pictures. If your child is eager for information, encourage that and read to him. Pretty soon, he’ll be reading these books to you!
Copyright © 2010 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.