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.
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.
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.
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!