Posted in Current Posts, Uncategorized

True or False? Reading Nonfiction Texts

I love to read. Newspapers, books, billboards, bumper stickers. Even cereal boxes for crying out loud. I can’t help it. And I can’t read one book at a time like “normal people.” I have my sleeping book, my entertainment book, my leadership book, and my PD book all going at the same time. I probably need counseling, but I’m quite happy with my obsession.

One book has my attention right now,

Reading Nonfiction, by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst. If you are serious about reading literacy, you’ve probably been influenced by their work.

I am convinced we need to revolutionize the way we present and define nonfiction to our students.

Take a moment and define the term nonfiction.

What words popped into your head? Most likely words like true, truth, real, accurate or correct are part of your description. Unfortunately we treat nonfiction books as gospel truth. Just because a book is found in the nonfictionsection of  the library does not mean we switch our brains to coast and blindly accept whatever we are reading  According to Beers and Probst (2016) a dangerous formula follows:

Nonfiction is true.

This text is nonfiction

Therefore this text is true.

Think about it.

Frankly, we are more engaged with the fictional stories: we build settings, trace character development, track story lines, and make predictions.

Here’s where the revolution comes in. Let’s rebel against passive nonfiction reading and   start asking four vital questions about the text:

  1. Does this confirm what I already know?
  2. Does this modify what I already know?
  3. Does this cause me to abandon something I thought I knew?
  4. Does the author have any bias on the subject?

“The role of the reader in nonfiction texts is to be active, to challenge the text, and to invite the text to challenge him” (Beers and Probst, 2016).

So what do you do now?

We want to increase engagement. We want to teach students to struggle with the text. How can we do this?

  1. Run hard copies of the nonfiction text you are reading. Give each child 3 stickie notes and ask them to cite three places in the where something they know is confirmed/modified/challenged. Have them share their insights in a Google doc or literacy circle.
  2. Run hard copies of the nonfiction text and ask your students to mark three things that are surprising. Have them Pair Share their findings.
  3. Run hard copies of the nonfiction text and ask your students to record their questions about the text. What do they wonder about? Then, actually give them 15 minutes to research their questions and write a Shorty Reporty on their findings.

So what do you think about this nonfiction text?

Does it confirm/modify/cause you to abandon what you already know about reading nonfiction texts? Leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

by Mary Kay Kane

all rights reserved. copyright 2017


A Christian woman who wants to make a difference in the world.

2 thoughts on “True or False? Reading Nonfiction Texts

  1. Great ideas! Teaching students to read is as much about how to be discerning as it is about word recognition. Related topic for another day: just because you saw it on TV or read it on the internet doesn’t make it true.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s