nonfiction · picture books · read aloud · slice of life

Mea Culpa

Mea Culpa: I haven’t read enough informational books to my daughter.

There, I said it.

I’ve known this is a problem for a long time. However, Isabelle doesn’t seem to gravitate towards information books since she isn’t deeply passionate about anything. She isn’t obsessed with trains or dinosaurs. That is, she isn’t one of those kids who marvel about facts. Isabelle’s strongest interests are going to hotels (She likes to travel!) and visiting Hersheypark. However, there aren’t too many informational books for four-year-olds about hotels and she’s too young for the biographies of George Ferris. I suppose these are halfway decent excuses for not exposing her to much nonfiction. But, honestly, I really haven’t wanted to fight a reading battle I didn’t have to fight with my kid, which is why I haven’t pushed anything other than fiction and poetry.

This weekend, I reorganized some of our bookshelves they were beyond messy. Isabelle helped me reorganize a shelf containing picture books. Afterwards, she pulled a book that looked attractive to her and asked me to read it. I was delighted when I saw the title since it was…

…an informational text!

She must’ve picked it because of the leaves on the cover. (She had just come in from jumping in leaf piles my husband was trying to rake.) I didn’t question why she grabbed it off of the shelf. Instead, I cozied up next to her on the couch and read.

I started out by stopping and talking with her after reading each page spread since I wanted her to hear how I was synthesizing the information I was learning from the text. I asked her questions and tried to have conversations with her about what she was learning. She was less-than-interested in talking about what she was learning, which was evidenced by her slouchy posture on the couch and a few “I don’t knows.” Therefore, I tried not to push too hard since I didn’t want her to equate a book that we can learn from to torture. I eased up on the talking and focused more on the reading. I even used some Whole Book Approach strategies with her, which I often do while reading fiction texts, so that we could talk about the design and pictures.

In the end, Isabelle said she liked the book because she likes fall and leaves. However, I don’t know how she’d feel if I kept picking informational texts to read with her. She’s the kind of kid who likes a good story. And right now, I think it’s more important that she has a positive view of books and storytime with mommy. She has the whole rest of her life to read nonfiction.

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18 thoughts on “Mea Culpa

  1. Good processing Stacey. Seems to me that you are following Isabelle’s path with respect and flexibility. What a great kid you’re raising. Hope we get to meet !!!! Missed you in Minneapolis. No Slicer breakfast 😦

  2. As someone whose mother didn’t read to her at all, I don’t think you should feel guilty. She loves books. When she finds her passion and obsession (dinosaurs or otherwise) she’ll be ready for informational text. Then, you’ll probably wish to return to fiction!

  3. I imagine she has had a few n-f books read to her at school, don’t you? And when she gets interested in something, the books will be there. Reading for enjoyment is what’s important, & that you do!

  4. As you say, I am sure Isabelle will develop in interest in nonfiction books when she is ready. You are wise not to make nonfiction reading something that is tedious.

    1. I thought of that after I hit publish. I have a Sandra Markle book on the history of chocolate that I used to use with my fourth and fifth graders. She LOVES chocolate so it’s possible she’ll like this too.

  5. I agree with everyone else. She will find nonfiction when she is ready. As a nonfiction CYBILS judge for the past few years, I can tell you that when she is ready, there is soooo much fabulous stuff out there, lots of great narrative nonfiction too. Check out Suzi Esterzhaus work or ELIZABETH QUEEN OF THE SEAS or A BABY ELEPHANT IN THE WILD by Caitlin O’Connell.

    1. Thanks for the recommendations, Carol. I love Cox and Floca’s Elizabeth book. It is one of the nonfiction books for which I wrote lessons in my forthcoming book on using mentor texts in small groups.

  6. It’s really interesting to hear your point-of-view with your daughter. I’m guilty, too, of not reading many informational texts to my boys. Well, no, I shouldn’t say that. After all, I think that 80% of the books the boys borrow from school library are informational texts – books about dinosaurs, insects, or crocodiles (my kindergartener’s current selection). We read them together, but not all the way through – usually just a few pages at a time. Like you, I love narratives, so our home library clearly reflects this. I’m trying to be mindful at school with my high school to remember the power of literary non-fiction, so maybe I need to keep that in mind at home, too. After all, I have noticed that my 10-year-old seems to enjoy those “I Survived” books. 🙂

  7. There are so many great hybrids out there now – she might like those. The Disgusting Critter Series is one I can think of off the top of my head. No rush….you will just have to follow her journey! Enjoy
    Clare and Tammy

  8. Stacey, I love how you wrestle with this and then just go with the flow. A few titles for you–just in case:

    1. What do You Do with a Tail Like This? (amazing and odd animal facts with the coolest illustrations ever!) Check out the three books by this author–cool stuff with amazing illustrations and really cool facts (at the end of the book there are details about these animal oddities). These books appealed to my children’s quirkiness.

    2. Isabella (a story that is grounded in NF)
    There is a book about a girl named Isabella (this is really the one I think your girl will like), a hybrid sort of book about a girl who sees herself as all these amazing women throughout history:

    3. My First Book
    National Geographic (Sarah liked the one about animals–read after a zoo trip)

    When the questions emerge, she will find the NF books that answer those questions, but maybe one or more of these will spark her interest.

    1. You won’t believe this, Maya. My Name is Not Isabella has been a book I’ve read to Isabelle, that she’s enjoyed, since she’s two. I forgot all about that one. Maybe I do read some nonfiction to her after all.
      I will check out the other two titles soon.

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