Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Gold Mine!

So yesterday a friend of mine took me to a treasure trove - Goodwill Bookstores -- look them up online. They are small, but they have great deals, and the books are in good shape...I got 75 books for 99 cents a piece! Can't beat that!

My friend, a former teacher, was looking for books for her son, who is preschool age, and her daughter, who is going into first grade but reads on a third grade level (yes, she's my fabulous Weds. reader). She did a great job of honing in on her son's interests - dinosaurs and non fiction. She mentioned that he was different than her daughter in that her daughter would pick up books for fun, yet he, not so much. I reassured her that this is typical boy/girl in my experience. Also the type of books. His were more nonfiction/experience he could relate to books, hers, more girly and fantasy.

As she picked out some books, a nonfiction on snakes caught my eye and I browsed through it. I stopped at one page to mention something to her that I have done year after year with my kids in the classroom.

What it was was a drawn illustration of a snake's mouth hinged open wide, and around it were arrows with words describing and naming the parts.

Younger kids stop and look at the pictures. They are still someone reading through the pictures, so they gather a lot of information from them. But as readers get older and words are their primary focus in reading, something changes. They stop looking as closely. They skip graphs and charts. They don't read captions.

Take the third grade Social Studies book, for instance. It is filled with graphics and pictures to help support understanding, because a lot of the history we learn can't be experienced. They have to learn second hand.

I always tell my kids when they open up the textbooks to LOOK AT THE PICTURES FIRST. Read the captions, look at the picture - question yourself -- What is this telling me? How will this be part of what I am reading? What details do I see that I know? What am I wondering?

There is tons of support in the graphics, but kids often skip over them, and become confused when reading because much of the time, textbook vocabulary does not match their level of reading. It is often above, and organized so differently than fiction books.

I tell kids they have nonfiction "muscles" in their heads that we need to build. Those muscles think differently - they know how the information is organized in columns, they tell you to look at the paragraphs and sections and to put them together to fit the whole Chapter heading.

Trust me, there are a lot of confused kids out there with textbooks simply because they have not been taught how to read that particular text structure.

So start with your preschooler or young reader. Pick up a nonfiction text and when you come to a page like the snake, stop. I would say, "Hey, look there. I didn't know that is where the venom comes out. But now that I look at the picture and the words next to the arrows, I get it! Wow! Pictures are SO important! Let's look where the story is telling us about the venom and see if it matches what I just learned from the picture!"

Work like that will pay off -- for years -- remember, what do they read in college? Textbooks.

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