This week, instead of profiling any of my recent nonfiction reading or highlighting a book, I decided to share the responses in my Grade 3/4 classroom when I asked this question:
“Look around our classroom library. What nonfiction title do you want to read next & why?”
This was a very useful exercise. In about 20 minutes, I learned a lot. Which books are popular? What topics are students interested in? How are book choices being made?
It also helped me to think about things like:
- student purposes for reading
- books to book talk
- our nonfiction library (organization, display, etc.)
- future book purchases
- exposure to specific genres
There are many nonfiction titles in our classroom – both books that I read aloud and titles that the students choose to read independently that are kept in our nonfiction bins. These titles below were chosen from the bins.
Answers under each photo answer the question: What nonfiction title do you want to read next & why?
“I’ve read all of the books in this series. When you book talked this one today, I wanted to read it because I like all of these creepy creatures.”
“It looks interesting from the cover. I want to know more about which animals hibernate. I don’t think I know them all.”
“I want to know what all of these feet are. I like the cover.”
“I like gorillas. They are really cute. And after we read about Ivan, I want to know more.”
“I want to know more about how animals might get dehydrated and how to save animals. The cover has a really great close up photo.”
“I like baby animals a lot. They’re so cute. I’ve read this series before. I like all of the photographs and that it tells me more about animals.”
“I want to learn about dirt. The picture looks like it shows what’s inside of it.”
“I want to know more about pandas. I know this series and I like the photos.”
“Because I’m scared of crickets. If I read it, I’ll get used to crickets. I read this series before and I like it because it’s easy to read and it tells about the life cycle and stuff.”
“I think it’s going to show lots of details about sharks. I know some things about a tiger shark already.”
“I love this series. I like reading about the animals that I don’t know lots of things about. Yet.”
“I like the photographs and the close up pictures. I want to learn more about mantises.”
“I want to find out more about how different animals eat. I like this photo on the cover a lot.”
A few themes seemed to emerge in terms of book choices:
Students were choosing to read books that might
- help them to answer specific questions
- be similar to other books they had read and enjoyed (similar series, author, topic)
- have connections to their background knowledge
- have connections to other learning we have done during the year
- be like a book they have had success with in the past
Some choices are being made purely based on the cover. Engaging full colour photographs are appealing. Other choices have more to do with a sense of the inside content. Students are also choosing books that will be a good fit in terms of reading level. A wide variety of texts at different difficulty levelss in essential. Series in nonfiction are popular just like series in fiction.
What books do your students gravitate to? What trends do you notice?
And, now I am thinking/confirming . . .
- Book talk. Book talk. Book talk. Lots of exposure to what we know and love and new titles, genres, topics.
- Make sure I know student interest. I need to keep asking these questions about preferences and picks. It will help me with supporting a variety of book choices and topics for future read alouds.
- The more I read aloud from the extensive nonfiction collection I have amassed, the more wonder, curiosity and knowledge I will help build. This will lead students to a wider variety of book choices for independent reading.
How I love nonfiction picture books! Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2015. Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction books you need to read!
Thanks also to Alyson for all of the wonderful conversations about nonfiction reading and teaching with nonfiction books. A conversation with her inspired me to start thinking about what draws my students to certain books. I am so very glad that I asked this question this week.
Love this–great insight into why kids choose books!
Thanks Laura! I think we learn the most when we listen 🙂
What a fun and informative activity! I can definitely see how kids would be more interested in certain books or topics if they were able to make a personal connection to it- either by experience or choice.
Really seems like that was a lot of the motivation. Which says to me . . . expose them to lots of topics and learning!
Fabulous post! Thanks.
Thanks so much. Glad you enjoyed.
The variety of books in your classroom library inspires awe! I want to come hang out and read all day long. This activity is a great example of how much rich information and learning (for the teacher) can emerge from a very simple question.
So very true – when we ask a question, and pay attention to the answer it goes way beyond simple! You are, of course, welcome to visit ANYTIME! And read and read and read.
Love this! We’re getting ready to start non-fiction book reading in 4th grade next month. This month was newspaper and magazine articles. It amazes me how many teachers don’t have many non-fiction books. Hoping to change that 🙂
Good luck! Kids need to have titles at their fingertips. It’s work, but important work to build a NF library to fit the needs and interests of the students.
Wouldn’t it be great if students knew authors of nonfiction like they know authors of fiction? This may help kids to expand the ways they choose nonfiction.
Yes! It’s so important to me to expose my students to a LOT of nonfiction and let them find favourite authors and series.
Even though they’re much older (11-14), they still choose books with good covers, & because they’re reading more sophisticated books, they gravitate toward what they already know something about. Book talking & shared ‘finds’ helps my students “try” new areas, yet I still find they lean toward the safe. My students are so scheduled, so when they choose something to read, they are careful because they have so little time. They want it to be good! Love this, started me thinking about how I can do more nudging!
Oh, Linda, makes me so happy that this got you thinking about your students. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here.
Great post! I was looking forward to reading this post all day! And it certainly didn’t disappoint.
Thank you! Makes me so happy to hear that coming from you.
Wonderful post Carrie! What an informative and fun activity!
Thanks Margie. I learned a lot by just observing and listening 🙂
I see why you are so inspired in teaching, Carrie – these kids look beautiful. 🙂
Wonderful, wonderful kids!
Pingback: Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: What nonfiction title do you want to read next & why? | Through the Prairie Garden Gate