library · nonfiction · reading · slice of life

Growing a Reader

And we grow, and we grow, and we grow.

And we grow, and we grow, and we grow.

The Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat, which is a festival that celebrates trees, is behind us. YET, I got “The Tree Song,” which I learned in Ari’s music class, stuck in my head this morning after I observed Isabelle:

Do you know what she’s doing?

Was she watching “CNN 10?” Nope, she already did that.

Was she playing a game? No.

Was she listening to music? Wrong again.

What was she doing? She was browsing for biographies to read on our county’s library website.

Why? Isabelle knows we’ll be transitioning to narrative nonfiction reading sometime in the next week and SHE wants to get prepared! She knows she’s responsible for picking people who interest her so she was on the prowl — before 8 a.m. — looking for just-right books. Isabelle doesn’t look at levels, which means she sometimes borrows a book that’s way too hard, but she takes it in stride. (NOTE: We do go to the library too. We just haven’t gone in the past week.) During the pandemic, Isabelle has come to enjoy researching books and reserving them with her library card. She uses the Apple Books app to see when new books by her favorite authors are coming out and to discover new books. It’s quite adorable.

Is this a big deal? YES!

Isabelle has Dyslexia, but over the years, she’s come to love reading. Gone are the days when she browses for books from a limited basket. Gone are the days that she yells when the “words are tricking” her — even though they still trick her. Nowadays, she self-selects books and tracks what she reads using Book Buddy. (Once she’s 12, I’m planning to introduce her to The Storygraph.) My daughter is living proof that a balanced literacy approach can work in concert with Orton-Gillingham. (That’s right. I’m in the both camp!)

I’ve grown a reader… with the help of her past teachers, past and present tutors, her speech therapist, and with the guidance of my mentors. It’s a beautiful thing to witness your child taking the initiative to seek out books, which is why I did a double-take this morning. I went back downstairs just so I could snap a photo since I wanted to preserve this moment.

Just like the tree in “The Tree Song,” Isabelle still has more growth ahead of her. I feel fortunate to be observing her growth as a literate human so closely this year. It is remarkable.

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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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Jewish · meme · nonfiction · picture books · raising strong girls

10 New Works of Nonfiction I Hope My Daughter Embraces

nf10for10I’m excited about today’s Nonfiction Picture Book 10 for 10, which is hosted by Cathy Mere from Reflect and Refine, Mandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning, and Julie Balen of Write at the Edge. I’m practically giddy awaiting the nonfiction picture books other bloggers will recommend. Last year I created a list of ten picture books I hoped Isabelle would embrace as she got older. Since she’s much more into narratives these days (She’s three!), I decided to create another list of ten picture books I hope she’ll embrace as she becomes more interested in nonfiction books.

Believe it or not, I’ve been keeping a stack of nonfiction books in my home office for the past few months in anticipation of this challenge. Here are the ones I decided to share today:

feathersFeathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart and Sarah S. Brannen (Charlesbridge) — If we have to take on roles for homework help once Isabelle hits middle school, then my husband will be the math, science, and Spanish guy and I’ll be the language arts, social studies, French, and Hebrew gal. However, that doesn’t mean I’m exempt from providing my daughter with math and science experiences right now.  This is why I love books like Feathers since it makes learning about the ways birds’ feathers are useful to them. Once I read this book to Isabelle (It’s a little too advanced for her right now.), we will be able to talk about the way feathers are used by the birds (e.g., blue jays, hawks, and herons) we see in our backyard, which is part forest and part wetlands. This is so exciting since it will expand our conversations beyond, “Look at the cute birdie.” (Seriously, I’m not a science person! See why I need books like this!)

flighthoneybeeFlight of the Honey Bee by Raymond Huber and Brian Lovelock (Candlewick Press) — If you read this blog last summer, then you may remember my daughter’s phobia of bees and butterflies. I bought a bunch of books to get her over those fears. She triumphed over the fear of bees, but not of butterflies. Therefore, I will be trying to rid her of her fear of bees before springtime.

Enter Flight of the Honey Bee.  I will use this book with her since it will help her understand the helpful role bees play in our world. It is the story of Scout, a honeybee who has “spent her whole life in the crowded hive. Now it is time for her to fly out and explore the world…” I’m hoping that having Scout to reference when we’re out and about in the world this spring and summer will help to eradicate some of Isabelle’s fear when she sees a bee.

foundingmothersFounding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies by Cokie Roberts and Diane Goode (Harper) — A few weeks ago, “Morning Joe” had Cokie Roberts on as a guest to talk about her new book. They showed a couple of interior spreads from the book, which looked as fantastic as it sounded.  Once I had the book in my hands, I discovered I loved reading since it contains the stories of women who were integral to the start of the United States. Other than the story of Dolley Madison rescuing the portrait of George Washington when the White House was burning, I was unfamiliar with the tales of many of the women featured in the book. Seeing as I pride myself on raising a strong girl, I want to make sure I incorporate the stories of this nation’s women into our conversations about history as she gets older. That means I will keep Founding Mothers close at-hand.

JFK-CoverJFK by Jonah Winter and AG Ford (Katherine Tegen Books) — I’ve been interested in the Kennedy Family since I took a spring elective about their role in American History in high school. When I was in college I did an independent study on the JFK, LBJ, and the Civil Rights Movement with Professor Berkowitz at GW. Therefore, when a review copy of JFK was sent to me, it went to the top of my book stack. Isabelle saw President Kennedy’s smiling face on the cover, picked it up, and began flipping through it. I read several pages to her, but it was too text-heavy for her three year-old brain. Therefore, I let her go back to looking at the lifelike illustrations.

I know I will want to teach her about President Kennedy’s life: his courage and his accomplishments. This book will be a fantastic way to start… once she’s a little bit older.

Josephine coverJosephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell and Christian Robinson (Chronicle Books) — As you know from reading my description of JFK, I’ve spent a lot of time studying the Civil Rights Movement. Therefore the story of performer Josephine Baker interested me immediately since she was a Francophile (So am I, but not to the extent she was!). Baker rose up from poverty to become a dancer and actress. But she wasn’t just another pretty face. She was active in the Civil Rights Movement.

Powell tells Baker’s story in verse. It is accompanied by Robinson’s illustrations, which are appealing to children.  Therefore, once Isabelle gets a bit older (I’m thinking about third grade!), I will look forward to sharing the story of Baker’s rich life with her in Josephine.

mapsMaps by Aleksandra Mizielińska and Daniel Mizieliński (Big Picture Press) — I had a huge map of the world hanging over my desk ’til my parents had my room painted when I was off at college. Nowadays, I keep maps in my car since I never want to be reliant on a GPS. My husband and I always get two maps of museums and amusement parks since we both want to know where we’re headed. Therefore, if Isabelle follows in our footsteps, she, too, will love maps. This book will be one of those gems I want her to treasure since it features exquisitely illustrated maps of countries from all seven continents.

The maps in Maps don’t just pinpoint locations, they teach about each country. Some examples from the United States of American map include:

  • A picture of a sequoia is featured in California with the explanation that “Sequoias are the world’s largest trees.”
  • An illustration of Mount Rushmore with a sentence “The presidents’ heads carved into the cliff are seven stories high.”
  • Cape Neddick Lighthouse, which is in the town next door to where we our family goes in the summertime, is featured on the map of the USA!
  • Route 66 is featured and it says “The legendary Route 66 runs between Chicago and Los Angeles.” A dotted line shows the route crossing 2/3 of the country.
  • There are pictures of famous Americans like Louie Armstrong, Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, Marilyn Monroe, etc.

foodparadeThe Food Parade: Healthy Eating with the Nutritious Food Groups by Elicia Castaldi (Henry Holt & Co.) — We eat healthy about 90% of the time when we eat at home.  Our house is one of those no-soda, no-ice cream, no-potato chips kind of homes. It’s not that we don’t like those foods.  No, no!  We love them a little too much!  Therefore, we’ve eradicated them from our pantry in favor of as many whole foods as possible.  Therefore, I love the way The Food Parade introduces children to the idea of healthy eating.  This adorably illustrated book provides kids with information about the five basic food groups. While it’s classified as a work of fiction (Because a book with fruits and vegetables that have faces and clothes cannot be a work of nonfiction!), I put it in this list because it’s a fun way to get my three year-old engaged in a conversation about the food pyramid and portion sizes.

thomas-jefferson-life-liberty-and-the-pursuit-of-everything-3Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Everything by Maira Kalman (Nancy Paulsen Books) — Last year I had Kalman’s book Looking at Lincoln on my NF10for10 list. As a history buff and a long-time Maira Kalman fan, I couldn’t resist Thomas Jefferson.  This book is an informative look at Jefferson’s life and his role in writing the Declaration of Independence. However, it doesn’t mince words. It holds Jefferson accountable for owning slaves at Monticello by stating  things like “The monumental man had monumental flaws.” Kalman’s message about Jefferson is one I want to teach my daughter when she begins to learn about this nation’s history. She says, “If you want to understand this country and its people and what it means to be optimistic and complex and tragic and wrong and courageous, you need to go to Monticello.” Seeing as Monticello is only a few hours away from our home, I know we’ll be taking her there sooner rather than later. This book will certainly be read several times before that visit happens!

UnderFreedomTreeUnder the Freedom Tree by Susan VanHecke and Landon Ladd (Charlesbridge) —  Under the Freedom Tree is the story of the first contraband camp during the Civil War. Just as Josephine Baker’s story was one I was unfamiliar with until recently, I don’t remember learning about the contraband camp at Fort Monroe despite the fact quite a bit of my history coursework focused on the Civil War. It’s important to me to put stories that don’t make it into most American History textbooks into my daughter’s hands.

Go to Two Writing Teachers tomorrow to check out an interview I did with author Susan VanHecke. 

torahWith a Mighty Hand: The Story in the Torah (adapted) by Amy Ehrlich and Daniel Nevins (Candlewick Press) — I had A Child’s Bible: Old Testament when I was growing up.  Truth be told, I didn’t love it. I found it kind of drab. Thankfully there are books like With a Mighty Hand on the market now. This version of the Torah is a visually appealing and accessible version of the Old Testament. It’s written in as plain of English as you can get for the Bible. This is important to me as a parent and as a learner since I struggle with interpreting the Torah. Too many commentaries in the sidebar can be confusing.  With a Mighty Hand is written with kids in mind, which makes it accessible for people who are new to Torah study to enjoy.

meme · nonfiction · picture books

10 Nonfiction Books I Hope My Daughter Embraces

nf10for10I’m very excited about tomorrow’s Nonfiction Picture Book 10 for 10, which is hosted by Cathy Mere from Reflect and Refine and Mandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning. I cannot wait to see all of the nonfiction picture books other bloggers will recommend. Until then, here’s my list of nonfiction picture books I want my daughter to embrace as she flourishes as a reader:

aseedissleepyA Seed is Sleepy by Diana Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long: We have an herb garden in our backyard. We plant flowers and trees. Our next door neighbor has an extensive garden, which she’s invited my daughter to sit in and taste from this-coming summer. We’re part of a CSA. Therefore, knowing where our food and plants come from is important. This book is packed with information, but it’s presented exquisitely. I’ve never seen a book on seeds as beautiful as this one. Therefore, it’s going to be one I explore with Isabelle as she gets older and can understand how seeds turn into so much more.

9780738209340Ann and Liv Cross Antarctica: A Dream Come True! By Zoe Alderfer Ryan and Nicholas Reti: Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen: two women who dreamed of crossing Antarctica. Many people told them they wouldn’t be able to do this because they were women. The naysayers were wrong. As the mom of a daughter, I know she may come up against sexism at some point in her life. Therefore, I want her to hear stories like this one so she knows anything is possible regardless of the fact that she’s a female! Each page spread has a heading that frames the information and the picture, which are exquisite paintings. The final page of the book invites young readers to “Draw Your Dream!” Typically, I don’t advocate my daughter drawing in books, but I cannot wait for her to illustrate whatever her dream is once she’s old enough to draw pictures that are more than crayon scribbles.

brick-by-brickBrick by Brick by Charles R. Smith Jr. and Floyd Cooper: I lived five blocks away from the White House (and volunteered there, but that’s another story!) when I was in college. Therefore, when we took my daughter to Washington at the tender age of four months old, we strolled by the White House to take a photo of her there. However, I never really gave much thought to who constructed that great building until I received a review copy of Brick by Brick last month. This book is written in poetic verse and details the “black hands/white hands/free hands/slave hands” that worked together to create the president’s home. Through rhyme and beautiful illustrations, readers empathize with the slaves who worked so hard, without earning a wage, to build an ornate house. The author’s note gave me a pang of sadness when I was reminded of the fire in 1814 that burned down the first White House. After all of that sacrifice, nothing remained. Even though we cannot see the original White House, I believe it’s important for my daughter to know its history. After all, the present day White House was rebuilt to look like the original and is a reminder of the involvement slaves had in creating one of our nation’s landmarks.

faces-of-the-moonFaces of the Moon by Bob Crelin and Leslie Evans: This book features cut-outs that help young readers picture the moon’s phases in a concrete way. My daughter has been fascinated with the moon for a few months now and this book has helped me learn a lot more about waxing moons, waning moons, and gibbous moons. (Stuff I’m sure I learned in science class, but have long since forgotten.)

Looking_at_Lincoln-pictLooking at Lincoln by Maira Kalman: A humorous, yet touching, look at one girl’s fascination with our 16th President. This book has a distinct voice and lots of fantastic craft moves one might teach young writers to emulate. Therefore, it’s one I recommend when I speak to teachers about using mentor text to enhance writing instruction.

nelson-mandela-kadir-bookNelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson: Nelson Mandela was in the news so much when I was growing up. I can remember him in prison. I remember the day he was released. And I remember the day he became the President of South Africa. He was a man I heard so much about on the news, but I never really knew much about his early life until I read Kadir Nelson’s book. The book doesn’t overwhelm with text. It includes only the most important details about Mandela’s life, which makes it an accessible biography for a young reader. I loved the spreads of the beach before and after apartheid. Those beach images provide a strong image about what it really meant when the “European Only” signs came down. The visual depictions of Mandela were so lifelike that readers will have a clear picture in their mind of what Mandela looked like at all stages of his life.

seedsbeesSeeds, Bees, Butterflies, and More! Poems for Two Voices by Carole Gerber and Eugene Yelchin: Any time a book can do double duty, I’m a happy camper. This book exposes kids to poetry and teaches them about nature. I long for the day when my daughter can read these poems aloud with me since they are meant for two voices. Until then, I will read them aloud to her on my own, changing my voice when the color on the page changes (i.e., every page is color-coded so you know when to change readers). This book is a nice companion to A Seed is Sleepy for teaching about the plant world.

train-states-peter-sis-hardcover-cover-artThe Train of States by Peter Sis: This book introduces young readers to all 50 states in their order of admission. (BTW: There’s a special page for Washington, DC.) Our state, the Keystone State, was the second one to be admitted. Its ornately decorated antique circus wagon car includes the state’s motto, nickname, flag, tree, dog, and bird. It also includes sketches of famous people like Benjamin Franklin, President Buchanan, and Betsy Ross. There is so much information packed on to this page that each page can be a springboard to a discussion into further investigation about a given state. Finally, page after page this book is a delight for the senses, especially if you’re sharing it with a child who loves trains.

lizblackwellWho Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone and Marjorie Priceman: The title sucked me in immediately, especially after I couldn’t find a doctor’s costume for my daughter this past Halloween. Once I started reading it, I was immediately drawn in thanks to the narrator’s conversational tone throughout the text. The author’s note in the back includes valuable information and the resource list on the final page encourages readers to learn more about Dr. Blackwell.

you-never-heard-of-willie-mays-You Never Heard of Willie Mays?! by Jonah Winter and Terry Widener: We’re big baseball fans in this house. This book shares the story of William Howard Mays Jr. with young readers. While it’s written as a narrative, it includes text boxes with facts (e.g., about Joe DiMaggio, Mays’ inspiration, and The Negro Leagues) and tables with statistics (e.g., “Best All-Around Hitters in Major League History,” “Great Players Whose Careers Were Interrupted by Military Service,” “Best Defensive Center Fielders in Major League History). These nonfiction text features really enhance the story, as does the author’s note that can be found across from the title page of the book.

nonfiction · RESEARCH · TCRWP

Embedded Text Structures

Text structures help you pay attention to books in a different way. Natalie Louis, one of my section leaders at the TCRWP Reading Institute, spent a lot of time teaching us that understanding nonfiction text structures can help kids to organize their thinking about their reading.

The seven text structures that entire books, chapters, or sections of books can have are:
1). Question/Answer
2). Lists
3). Categories
4). Problem/Solution
5). Process
6). Cause & Effect
7). Compare & Contrast

As a result of today’s session, I’m going to start paying greater attention to the text structures of the nonfiction books I buy and read aloud to Isabelle. I know that many of the nonfiction board books we have in our home are question/answer and list types of books. I’m now going to be more intentional about looking for a greater variety of text structures when I seek out nonfiction books for our home.

nonfiction · RESEARCH

Another plug for nonfiction

I blogged about the importance of balancing nonfiction books with fiction books (and poetry) in our home library.  Just when it was beginning to slip my mind, I remembered an opinion piece I recently came across from The New York Times about the importance of kids reading nonfiction for summer reading.  Though my little one is years away from summer reading book lists, I thought it was worthy of sharing a link to the piece in this forum.

Some Books Are More Equal Than Others

By Claire Needell Hollander

Sun., 6/24/12