How do we get children more interested in reading nonfiction titles? I so often hear that students don’t gravitate to nonfiction or that they aren’t interested in reading nonfiction titles in the same way that they are fiction titles.
Nonfiction reading is a priority in my classroom. I want my students to benefit from the rich reading experiences nonfiction books provide. I do my best to keep up with great new nonfiction releases. I purchase a number of nonfiction books. But, beyond filling my room with titles, I do certain things to ensure that these books are being read, understood and enjoyed. Like:
- book talk, book talk, book talk
- lots of nonfiction read alouds that are “stretched out” to include talk time, written responses and various activities
- book displays that highlight nonfiction reads
- one day a week that has a specific nonfiction focus during Reading Workshop
When I feel that students need to branch out and experience other nonfiction books and think more deeply about their nonfiction choices, we take some time to do nonfiction book sharing circles.
I break my students into groups of 6-8 children and provide enough books so that each child has two books to look at for a two minute period. I literally set a timer and when it “dings” we pass our books to the next person in the circle. Every two minutes switch.
Before we begin the “looking at” and checking out books, I model. How can I spend a minute with a nonfiction picture book? What would I look at? How do I skim through the book, stopping for a closer look at things that interest me? What features am I looking for in a book? What is important to me?
At the end of a full circle of sharing, I have the kids place all of the books in the centre and we talk. What books were favourites? What books were not appealing? What title would you like to put in your book box right now? Why?
Books that we wanted to keep reading:
- “had answers to questions I was wondering”
- “have lots of different information and it is easy to find on the page”
- “have great real life photographs or interesting illustrations”
- “are about a topic that I really like”
- “told me something I didn’t already know.”
- “made me wonder stuff.”
Books that we might not pick up again:
- “have too basic facts”
- “have too much text on a page and no boxes or charts or labels”
- “the illustrations aren’t interesting”
- “are about something I already know lots about”
- “they don’t make sense like I don’t know where to start reading’
As adults leading the groups we noticed
- Illustrations/Photographs are key.
- Two minutes at a time was the perfect time for focus and attention.
- Certain books needed more direction – how to navigate, highlighting certain features, etc. and then interest increased.
- Kids did judge a book by its cover but changed their minds after spending a minute flipping through.
- The expectation of quiet with sharing at the end helped children focus.
- Particular series are tried and trusted.
- Certain topics were particularly interesting (space, weather, etc.) and our nonfiction collection needs more titles on these topics that students can read independently.
I am now thinking of all of these things as I make a few new purchases for the classroom and am hoping the children are excited to make some new choices in their nonfiction reading tomorrow!