Nonfiction Monday: Spiders and Ticks and Reading Nonfiction Aloud

Welcome Comment Challengers, Happy  Monday!

Today we’ve got a combo post with book talks about arachnids and ways to enjoy nonfiction picture books as a shared read-aloud with your kids. Not only is this our Nonfiction Monday contribution, but it is our first three entries in the Read to Me Picture Book Challenge hosted by There’s a Book.

Last week, Catherine brought home three nonfiction picture books about arachnids.

Daddy Longleg Spiders (The Library of Spiders)
(PowerKids Press 2004)
Nic Bishop Spiders
(Scholastic Nonfiction 2007)
(PowerKids Press 2007)

Browsing v. ReadingEven though I am not crazy about spiders (or ticks), I was thrilled to see these three books being pulled from the backpack. Because we read nonfiction differently than we read other picture books or prose, I’m going to take a different approach with this book talk.
These are books that are meant for browsing. Because there is no story per se, you can open to any page and just start exploring. The photography is what initially most interests a young reader and helps draw them in. They also give you plenty to share in talking about what you see. Nic Bishop Spiders has a fold-out page that illustrates how a jumping spider can leap 20 times its body length. The close-ups let you talk about the spider’s jumping form, its size compared to the leaf, and for older readers, the photographic process itself.My daughter’s rationale for picking these k,” and “gross” over the photos … and then share those emotions with her peers. Nothing says “are you brave enough?” like the four eyes of a hairy jumping spider staring at you!

Leading to Reading

These aren’t the only nonfiction picture books Catherine has brought home, and sometimes all we ever do is look at the pictures. At first that used to bother me, but as I’ve come to see, just talking about what we see is valuable.

When we sat down to explore these books, Catherine was always quick to ask “what’s that picture about?” Of course she didn’t like our answer “well, why don’t you read and find out …” But when she did read, she went straight for the text insets because they are short. With Daddy Longlegs Spiders she would read the inset and move on. With Nic Bishop Spiders she would read the inset and then read the main text … usually beginning with the material that was set apart from the rest.  Reading

“Hairs on a spider’s legs can sense the sound of a flying insect.”

works perfectly for quietly nudging the reader into reading the rest of the page. Once they start reading, well then you’ve “lost” them for awhile.

Format Matters

Picture books – and specifically nonfiction picture books – are great lures for getting kids to pick up a book. Many have great high interest/low readability potential and often the topics cover subjects that boys like. That said, even with photographs, these books can be as overwhelming to young reader’s eyes as a full page of text and no illustration.

  • Daddy Longlegs Spiders uses what I would call “traditional” nofiction format: a main narrative, sidebars, and insets. The photos are what give the pages their white space. The large main text will attract young readers, but the small text on insets and sidebars can give them a “crowded” image.
  • In Nic Bishop Spiders each page or spread has one photo, some narrative that describes a particular spider trait, and the photo explanation at the bottom. There is “regular” font and large, colorful font. The white space is created by the photographs and also in the text layout. It is a simple presentation without extra lines or boxes on the page.
  • Ticks: Digging for Blood has text on one page and a photo on the other. There are no annotated insets with body parts, and there is plenty of white space. Some words are highlighted, but there is no variation in text size or color.

All three of the books have an index, which is helpful when you want to move beyond content to talk about doing research. My one disappointment with Nic Bishop Spiders is that while it has a glossary (just six words), it does not include the phonetics for how to pronounce the words. In fact, neither spider book includes the phonetics for words like cephalothorax or Phalangiidae next to the word in the main text.  Not only does Ticks have the pronunciation assistance right as the reader is getting to the word, it’s glossary has all of the words printed in bold, repeats the phonetic pronunciation, and includes a definition.

Bottom Line

Nonfiction picture books can be a fun, shared read aloud … even when it’s a topic that makes you squeamish. What these spiders reminded me was that sometimes reading together isn’t about the words on the page at all. Eight thumbs up!

This week’s Nonfiction Monday Round-up is at Tales from the Rushmore Kid.

19 responses to “Nonfiction Monday: Spiders and Ticks and Reading Nonfiction Aloud

  1. Okay, I’m too much of a wimp to read a book about ticks… but I can suggest another about Daddy Long Legs spiders. Daddy Long Legs at Birch Lane, by Beverley Brenna, Soundprints Press, 1996. A Smithsonian Picture Book. I don’t know how easily found it is (unless you want to go spelunking through my picture book collection!) It tells the story of a female Daddy Long Legs (which sounds like a contradiction in terms!) from her hatching to her own egg-laying.
    elizabethanne recently posted…Gobble- Gobble- CRASH! by Julie StiegemeyerMy Profile

  2. I was just thinking that we don’t read NF books aloud much, and it’s true we don’t get them out from the library much, but then I realised that actually M’s favourite activity around the table after lunch or supper is getting one of her illustrated encyclopedias out and talking with us about it and reading bits and peices. You’re absolutely right – the short pieces of text are appealing for her as a beginner reader, and the photography is a real puller-in. For Christmas she got the The Natural History Book from Dorling Kindersley and we are all enjoying it a great deal
    Zoe @ Playing by the book recently posted…Finnish puppets and friendly barracudas!My Profile

  3. My younger kids and I have gotten away from reading non-fiction very much but it is coming back as the kids need to do school reports. I also get requests from homeschoolers on my blog for more non-fiction. I just got my older son (25 years) to agree to do a short review of a children’s history related book on my blog about once a month.

    On this Monday I have to recommend: SIT-IN How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea and Brian Pinkney. This is on the Cybils short list and we just got it yesterday at the library – beautiful!

    ~ Lauri Chandler

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  5. Okay, WIMP #2 replying here. It would be hard for me to sit and discuss this many books about spiders and ticks at one time but alas, when I was Catherine’s age and going to Brownie and Scout camps I was Miss Brave One and during the school year devoured books on spider and ticks and daddy long legs and snakes and all things gory and scary. Of course the books were not constructed in near the interesting and even more importantly in the engaging ways back then in the “olden days” as my kids would say 20-25 years later. I am so excited about current nonfiction as I look at last year’s and this year’s finalists for CYBILS…wow. Have you and Catherine looked together at any of this year’s finalists in the NF PB category?
    Rasco from RIF recently posted…NONFICTION MONDAY- WALLMy Profile

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  9. Great review!
    I have done a storytime based on spiders, with great success.

    I pitch wordless books, or photography heavy books to parents of reluctant readers all the time… sometimes, the conversations that are sparked by examining picture books are great vocabulary builders unto themselves.

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