Archive for the ‘nonfiction picture books’ Category

Motivating Reluctant Readers with Informational Texts

May 27, 2010

When asked what motivates them to read expository (nonfiction) text, children placed emphasis on three areas:  knowledge gained, personal interests, and choice (Edmunds and Bauserman, 2006).

Informational texts tend to be a great motivator for reluctant readers for the three reasons found in the study above.  Children gain knowledge when they choose to read about topics that interest them. The following informational texts are great for reluctant readers:


Magazines are great for reluctant readers because they provide short articles that engage readers, but aren’t too long to intimidate readers.  Here are a few I would recommend:

Time for Kids

The children’s edition of Time Magazine, this periodical is bright and colorful and full of engaging current events for children.

National Geographic Kids

The children’s edition of National Geographic, this periodical is also bright and colorful and full of engaging science and social studies topics.

Ranger Rick

Published by the National Wildlife Federation, this periodical provides informative articles about animals and nature.

Sports Illustrated Kids (1-year)

The children’s edition of Sports Illustrated, this periodical is perfect for the sports lover in your life!

Trade Books

Often short texts that concentrate on one topic.  Historically based picture books are great motivating informational texts for reluctant readers.

Jean Fritz books (great for older readers who want to learn about the period of The Revolutionary War)

Will You Sign Here, John Hancock?

Can’t You Make Them Behave, King George?

Picture Books

Henry’s Freedom Box (Caldecott Honor Book)

A Picture Book of Christopher Columbus (Picture Book Biography)

Resource:  Edmunds, K.M., & Bauserman, K.L. (2006, February). What Teachers Can Learn About Reading Motivation Through Conversations With Children. The Reading Teacher, 59(5), 414–424

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliatelinks and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Real World Reading with Preschoolers

March 10, 2010

Created by Susan Stephenson of The Book Chook

A few weeks ago I read a column in the Washington Post by Jay Matthews.  He lamented about how restrictive reading lists are for middle and high school students and how they haven’t really changed from when he was in high school, in other words there is very little nonfiction on the reading lists!  Mathews stated, “Educators say non-fiction is more difficult than fiction for students to comprehend. It requires more factual knowledge, beyond fiction’s simple truths of love, hate, passion and remorse. So we have a pathetic cycle. Students don’t know enough about the real world because they don’t read non-fiction and they can’t read non-fiction because they don’t know enough about the real world.”

As an educator, I have heard colleagues say how non-fiction is more difficult than fiction for students to comprehend, as Mr. Matthews stated.  My answer always was, “We need to teach them how to read nonfiction.  We need to expose students to the joys of reading nonfiction.”  After all, that’s our job as educators, isn’t it?  But, it’s not just an educator’s job.  Our children actually spend way more time outside of school than in school, so really, teaching our children falls on us as parents as well.

In my opinion, it’s never too early to introduce nonfiction texts into our children’s lives.  Perhaps if we begin immersing our children in nonfiction as preschoolers (when they have a natural curiosity for the world around them and they are full of energy for learning!), they will grow up with a natural love for learning and passion for reading.  And really, the earlier we introduce nonfiction into our children’s lives the easier it becomes for them to understand how to read it.  Maybe we can begin to break the “pathetic cycle” and create a generation of readers who enjoy nonfiction!

So here I have for you just a few ways you can integrate nonfiction into your preschooler’s life:

  1. Read Aloud Nonfiction Texts – Anytime your preschooler shows an interest in a particular topic, provide nonfiction books on that topic.  When you read informational texts aloud to your child (and you don’t have to read nonfiction from cover to cover!), you are building his/her background knowledge.
  2. Expose Your Child to Real World Nonfiction Print – Provide real-world nonfiction text for pretend play.  For example, if your child is pretending to be a waiter or work in a restaurant, have some take-out menus on hand for him to use.  If your child is playing post office, provide him with some junk mail to sort.  This can easily turn into a math activity as well.  Kids can sort the mail by color or size.  When your child turns your family room into a waiting room at the doctor or dentist office, provide magazines and newspapers for him.
  3. Introduce Text Features If your child has a particular question about a topic, use that opportunity to discuss and show your child a few text features of nonfiction texts.  Perhaps he wants to know what a specific dinosaur eats; demonstrate how you can use the table of contents or the index to try to locate the answer quickly, rather than reading through the whole book.  If you come upon a word that you know your child will have difficulty understanding, demonstrate how to use a glossary.  If there isn’t a glossary, explain to your child what the word means.  Briefly, explain how we read differently for different purposes.
  4. Provide Hands-on Experiences A combination of texts and real-life or hands-on experiences is most powerful for learning.  You can use this three-step process to incorporate nonfiction texts into your preschooler’s reading repertoire.  Through these steps you will build your child’s background knowledge (essential to comprehending texts):
  • Select a text based on a topic that interests your child.
  • Hands-On/Read World – Prior to reading, provide an opportunity for your child to have a hands-on experience of some sort related to the topic.  Utilize the outside world as much as possible (outdoors in general, museums, special exhibits, etc.)
  • Read Aloud -Read aloud the text asking questions as you read.  Provide explanations if you believe your child’s comprehension may be breaking down.
  • Connect – Draw comparisons between the experience the child had and the text. How are they alike? How are they different? Help your child make connections.

Reading nonfiction texts with preschoolers provides a natural connection to their own curiosities about the world.   Having background knowledge about topics helps children comprehend what they read.  By building upon the world knowledge of your preschooler now, you are setting a foundation that will only serve to guide them when they begin reading on their own.

What if we begin with our youngest learners?  What are other ways we can introduce nonfiction into the lives of preschoolers?

Parts of this post were originally written as a guest post on No Time For Flash Cards in August 2009

Please note that this post is part of the Share a Story-Shape a Future Literacy Blog Tour, which is being hosted at The Reading Zone today with the topic, Just the Facts: The Nonfiction Book Hook.  Thank you for stopping by!  I hope you visit again soon!

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

We-View Wednesday: The Bones You Own by Becky Baines

February 17, 2010

I’d like to begin a new weekly link here at Literacy Toolbox.  It’s called We-View Wednesday and basically it’s a parent/child review of a book (as in “we” review it together).  I don’t make it a habit to review books here, but if I come across books that I think you and your child will like, I will certainly share them!  I started to think about how I could involve my children in the process and this is what I came up with!  We read all the time and I think asking kids what they think about a book is just as important as reading to them.  Kids need to understand that they may not always like a book and that’s OK (especially if they are school age, they may feel uncomfortable sharing their true feelings for fear of upsetting an adult).  Asking children to share their opinion of a book also begins to build their critical thinking skills.  Of course, your child’s age will determine how much of  a review you may get out of him or her.

So, since I am VERY new at this whole process, I would like to open it up to you all!  If you are interested in participating in this weekly event, please leave a comment.  If you have any suggestions or ideas, please share them!  I have a three year old and a seven year old, so I will attempt to alternate the we-views between the two.  This one is by my seven year old – he didn’t have much to say, but did pick up on text features!

Published by National Geographic Kids, ZigZag: The Bones You Own is a fantastic informational book for young readers.  Combining labels, photographs, colorful pages and varied font sizes, this book brings bones to life for the preschool and early reader set.  Providing just enough detail to entice the reader, but not overwhelm, this book is another great informational text brought to you by National Geographic.

What did you like about the book?

Seven Year Old We-View:  I liked how the photographs show you real bones.  The X-rays were cool, too!

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Tying Literature to Math

January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!  I wanted to share a quick activity I did with my kids this morning that ties literature and math together.  I touched briefly on it in my last post, Nonfiction Picture Books to Read Aloud to Young Children, specifically when I discussed how you could use The Hershey’s Kisses Addition Book with children.

There is another series of books called The M&M Brand books – Counting, Addition, and Subtraction.  My kids love M&M’s and with the holidays over, I had some leftover candy.  So, I took the candy and made a math lesson out of them.  I provided each child with a pile of M&Ms.  My kids are 6 and 3, so I had to determine how I could accommodate both learners.  Here is what I came up with:

Six Year Old

  1. I provided him with a sheet that I created that had ten math problems; 5 addition and 5 subtraction.
  2. I asked him to use the M&Ms to solve the problems.  He just generically placed the M&Ms on a sheet of a paper and solved the problem.  Next time, or if he has more complex problems, I may ask him to separate by color.

Three Year Old

My three year old wanted to participate, too – especially when she saw it involved chocolate!  So, I gave her a pile of M&Ms and a piece of paper.

  1. First, I asked her to sort by color.
  2. Second, I provided her with an AB pattern.  I simply wrote AB at the top of the paper several times.  Then, I told her that the green M&Ms were A and the red M&Ms were B.  I said, “If the green M&Ms are A where would you put one?”  She placed a green M&M under the letter A.  I asked the same question substituting red for green and B for A.  She placed a red M&M under the letter B.  I guided her along for two more and then she completed the rest on her own.

This quick learning activity provided my son with practice with his math facts and gave my daughter a little introduction into making patterns, which I know she will learn more about this year in preschool (if she hasn’t already).

©2009 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Getting to Know Nonfiction: Choosing Nonfiction Picture Books

December 23, 2009

Young children love to learn about the world around them.  In the past, nonfiction that was available for young children was less than desirable.  Nowadays, there are wonderful nonfiction picture books that serve as fantastic examples for children to learn from as well as enjoy.

So, how should parents and educators go about locating a great nonfiction picture book?

  1. Look for high quality nonfiction picture books that are visually appealing.  Young children tend to be visual learners.  Visually appealing nonfiction is engaging to young learners.  Look for books that have accurate illustrations and photographs.  If it appeals to you, more than likely, it will appeal to your child.
  2. Is the information in the book accurate?  Do the pictures match the facts/text?  Look for information about the research process.  Was an expert consulted?  When reading books that combine nonfiction and fiction (i.e. The Magic School Bus series), use it as an opportunity to help your child understand what is fact and what has been fictionalized and why the author may have chosen to blend the two.  Oftentimes, these types of books tend to be confusing and deceiving to children looking for factual information.
  3. Look for nonfiction picture books that engage the reader through the writing.  Good nonfiction books are clear and coherent.  Are the ideas ordered logically?  Is the writing well organized?  Is the language understandable? Does the author provide an engaging lead that draws the reader in?  Look for books that present information in creative ways.  Notice how vocabulary is introduced and defined.

What other ways might one go about locating great nonfiction picture books?  I would love to hear your thoughts!

This post was inspired by: Gill, S.R. (2009).  What Teachers Need to Know About the “New” Nonfiction.  The Reading Teacher. (63) 4, 260-267.

©2009 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.