Monthly Archives: May 2016

Non-fiction books have many benefits for kids

by Melissa Perry
Program Coordinator

 

Q: What should my child be reading?

A: More non-fiction!

The teachers I have spoken to say they hear this question and give this answer all the time. And they do so for a good reason.

Non-fiction literature gives children a glimpse at how the world works and allows them to explore unfamiliar places, animals, cultures, and concepts. For example, a child interested in marine life can learn about the creatures residing within the very depths of the ocean and a child curious about the foods enjoyed in Japan can have their questions answered and even learn to make some of these foods themselves by following recipes found in cookbooks. Nonfiction builds on a child’s interests and curiosity, increases vocabulary and deepens background knowledge. And the topics to be explored are endless!

Non-fiction differs from fiction because it requires reading for content and information. Having early experiences with informational text gives children the opportunity to practice gleaning facts, statistics, instructions and other pertinent information from text, diagrams, charts, and photographs. This is a skill used in daily life. Whether following a recipe, deciphering a bus schedule, or reading a formal contract, the ability to sift out necessary details is required to be successful.

Non-fiction can also help children handle new life experiences and changes. Moving abroad, or even down the street, preparing to welcome a new sibling, or having trouble with friends- there are multitudes of printed materials at the ready to give children (and adults!) factual information about any life situation.

Non-fiction comes in many forms from newspapers, magazines, educational journals, atlases, cookbooks, and encyclopedias, all of which can be found in your local library. Next time your child asks a question about wombats or Thomas Edison that you don’t have an answer for, stop by the library and check out a few books! You and your child will find what you’re looking for and a whole lot more!

Here are some great nonfiction book series that are available at your local library or bookseller:

The Magic School Bus series
National Geographic Kids
Backyard Books
‘What was…’ series
‘Who was…’ series
‘I survived’ series

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The magic of words found in picture books

north star

by Katrina Morse

The words used in conversation and the written word are often completely different. Think about what you casually say to your child every day and then what you read to your child. Books, even children’s books, contain a richness of vocabulary that we don’t often find in daily language. It is through hearing these new words spoken, in the context of a story, that children build their vocabularies beyond a basic lexicon.

One of our favorite books is “A Splendid Friend, Indeed,” by Norwich, NY author, Suzanne Bloom. This is a very simple story about a sullen polar bear and an inquisitive goose. The text is made up of common words, except for “splendid” and “ indeed,” two words that are rarely used in daily conversation. When this book is read out loud by an adult, a child will hear the words of the book pronounced, hear words used in a sentence, hear words while looking at the accompanying illustrations, and then, will not only learn about new words, but will understand them.

At the end of Suzanne Bloom’s book, when the now-animated bear says to goose, “You are my splendid friend, my splendid friend indeed,” the child who has heard the book read aloud will have two new words to add to their vocabulary.

Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, says “As you read to a child, you’re pouring into the child’s ears (and brain) all the sounds, syllables, endings, and blendings that will make up the words he or she will someday be asked to read and understand.”(6th edition, p. 13)

Choose books for your child that introduce some new words, but not so many that the meaning of the story is lost. For pre-schoolers try “The Napping House” by Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood, which uses synonyms for the word sleeping: slumbering, snoozing and dozing. “Chester’s Way” by Kevin Henkes contains a rich assortment of words that are not common to youngsters: diagonally, miniature, duplicated, disguised and fierce. “How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?” by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague, uses some uncommon verbs: pout, stomp, roar and demand.

Even when your child is old enough to read to him or herself, read aloud to your child. A child’s listening level always exceeds her reading level. So, while a child may be reading picture books on his own, you can read a book aloud that is more advanced, like “Charlotte’s Web,” by E.B. White. When you read aloud you are pronouncing words that are new to your child, and can talk about the meaning if your child doesn’t understand.

Trelease goes on to say, “It’s not the toys in the house that make the difference in children’s lives; it’s the words in their heads. The least expensive thing we can give a child outside of a hug turns out to be the most valuable: words.” Where are those words? In books.

Find these children’s book titles at the library and local booksellers. For more of our favorites visit the “Great Ideas” page of the Family Reading Partnership’s website:www.familyreading.org.

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