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:
- Does this confirm what I already know?
- Does this modify what I already know?
- Does this cause me to abandon something I thought I knew?
- 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?
- 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.
- Run hard copies of the nonfiction text and ask your students to mark three things that are surprising. Have them Pair Share their findings.
- 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