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Mon-Thu: 9am-9pm
Fri-Sat: 9am-5pm
Sun: 12pm-4pm
71 Monell Ave., Islip, NY
Ph: 631-581-5933
Fax: 631-581-8429

Mon-Thu: 9am-9pm
Fri-Sat: 9am-5pm
Sun: 12pm-4pm
71 Monell Ave., Islip, NY
Ph: 631-581-5933
Fax: 631-581-8429

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All posts by Donna Jeansonne

The Benefits of Nonfiction for Early Readers

The Benefits of Nonfiction for Early Readers

Education experts believe nonfiction might be the key to a non-reader’s heart. Find a topic that interests your child and look for exciting nonfiction on that topic. But start small with one topic, such as dinosaurs, trucks, outer space, animals or something else that you know your child likes.

Whatever the topic, continue to read aloud classic picture books, but supplement with nonfiction. Although the Internet has countless pages and sites devoted to information about every topic under the sun, there’s something special about opening a giant-sized book that draws in even the most reluctant reader. Pre-historic beasts or giant snakes seem to leap from the pages of the book as a child holds it up to examine pictures from every angle, something not possible on even the largest computer screen.

The advent of the Internet has been embraced as the “best” way to find information. But educator and author Kim Fulcher writes that the Internet, while more child-friendly than a set of encyclopedias, is one-dimensional. “Beautiful nonfiction books in print today,” she writes, “are at once a source of knowledge and the beginning of a sense of wonder” absent on the Web.

Furthermore, interesting and colorful nonfiction can be an antidote to the abysmal amount of time children spend reading. A national study sponsored by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the average child in the United States spends an average of five hours a day watching television and playing video games. Fewer than four minutes a day, the study found, is spent reading nonfiction.

Educator Fulcher believes the benefits of reading nonfiction are many, but four stand out:

  • It offers a portal into the understanding that is vital for self-confidence and for feeling powerful—when we understand science, we are less likely to fall prey to superstition and to value fantasy and the power of imagination…
  • It can be the springboard to understanding how and why the world works…
  • It helps children assimilate the language of science history and academia and helps them learn academic subjects more easily as they progress through upper grades.
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    It can be the best way to entice a nonreader into giving reading another try. Gaining access to facts and ideas about something that fascinates a child can be just the sweetener needed to struggle through those early reading days.

For the parent of a beginning reader, some of these reasons may sound premature, but educators disagree. According to an article by Melissa Perry on the Website Educational Leadership, teachers encourage parents to read more nonfiction with their children because it builds on a child’s interests and curiosity, as well as increasing vocabulary and background knowledge.

“Nonfiction differs from fiction because it requires reading for content and information…giving children the opportunity to practice gleaning facts, statistics, instructions and other information from text, diagrams, charts and photographs…a skill used in daily life,” Perry writes.

Perry also believes that “whether following a recipe or deciphering a bus schedule…the ability to sift out necessary details is required to be successful.” Paired with fiction on a similar topic, children gain valuable tools to navigate their world.

The Islip Public Library not only has an extensive collection of nonfiction for early readers, it has Book Bundles, which contain picture books paired with nonfiction on a variety of topics, from princesses to firetrucks. Look for the books just opposite the reference desk in the children’s department.

As Common Core standards continue to emphasize the importance of nonfiction reading to prepare students for middle school, high school and college, educators stress the importance of nonfiction reading. Such a base of information, established in childhood, will help students develop important research and evaluation skills, which educators call information literacy.

Additionally, early emphasis on nonfiction, even for children as young as two or three, may be a solution to a growing problem cited by Connie Matthiessen, writing for the website greatschools.org. “Many colleges, she writes, “have discovered that incoming freshmen may be able to compute a math problem or analyze a short story, but they can’t read complex nonfiction or write a well-researched essay.”

Matthiessen cites research by the Leadership and Learning Center that “shows that workplace reading has become more complex in recent years,” and that, most shocking, “jobs that demand low reading and writing skills are being sent overseas, so even entry-level jobs now demand higher reading skills.”

To spark your child’s nonfiction reading, Matthiessen offers tips:

  • Pursue the passion: get books that encourage your child’s interests.
  • More is more: offers lots of nonfiction reading material—from books and magazines to newspapers and atlases.
  • Be the bookworm yourself: read a broad range of fiction and nonfiction and talk about what you read.
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    Reality check: talk about connections between what your child is reading and events in the news.
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    Get the lowdown: ask your child’s teacher if your child’s reading list includes nonfiction. If not, ask why.

Embarking on a plan to guide your child through the educational years ahead may seem overwhelming, so start small. Pick a topic your child talks about and start there. Below are a few nonfiction series available at most libraries that will appeal to young children.

  • The Magic School Bus series
  • National Geographic Kids
  • Backyard Books
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    Magic Treehouse companion books
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    “What was…” series
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    “Who was…” series
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    “I survived…” series

Whatever you choose, spend time reading along with your child and discussing the topics. You may find that one topic of interest leads to another. Instead of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie…”, you can create your own family story of “If You Give a Child a Nonfiction Book.”

Reading Aloud to Older Children

The Importance of Reading Aloud to Older Children

Contrary to popular belief, reading aloud to your children should not end after they learn to read.

According to Boston-based journalist and author Jim Trelease, reading aloud to older children—even up to age 14—has both academic and emotional benefits. While many parents and caregivers believe older children should be left on their own once they learn how to read fluently, and many older children demand independence from the daily routine of read-aloud sessions, Trelease argues that reading levels don’t catch up to children's listening levels until 8th grade, and that reading aloud to older children helps children’s language fluency, as well as comprehension, especially if they are following along with the book.

Trelease, who could be called the King of Read-Aloud, turned his passion for reading aloud to his own children into The Read-Aloud Handbook, which is used by educators and librarians as the go-to source for information on the subject.

Trelease argues that parents can and should be reading 7th grade books aloud to 5th graders because children enjoy listening to more complicated plots than they can read themselves. Parents also can use such books as an opportunity to open discussions about difficult social issues that children face as they move through school.

For instance, according to Trelease, parents might tell children not to hang out with certain kids—a lecture that is largely ignored. But if parents read a book about a child who gets in trouble by choosing the wrong friends, that is an opportunity for a discussion about wise choices. One excellent choice of a novel that opens the discussion for an increasingly common problem is Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, in which a high school freshman refuses to speak rather than reveal that she has been attacked by a classmate.

In addition to helping older readers with comprehension, read-aloud sessions help teach practical speaking skills. Melissa Taylor, in an article for www.readbrightly.com, writes that the reading parent or caregiver can model how to read by pausing at commas and periods, with voice inflection indicating questions or exclamations and with pauses to look up unfamiliar words, and how to use clues in the text to help the child figure out the meaning.

Taylor also believes reading aloud hooks kids into trying a new author or series of books and different genres or texts they wouldn’t normally choose on their own, a premise Trelease shares. On his website, www.trelease-on-reading.com, he has book lists, book reviews, excerpts from his read-aloud handbook and other information for parents. It's a good source of information.

When children and caregivers engage in read-aloud sessions well into middle school, their appreciation for reading is enhanced as they get older. The Synergy School, a private school in San Francisco, published a survey by Scholastic and YouGov that 62% of children aged 6-8 reported they “like a lot” and “love” reading for fun. That number drops to 46-49% for ages 9-17. Additionally, the study found that while 52% of younger children report reading for fun is extremely important, that number drops below 45% for older children who believe in the importance of pleasure reading. According to the Synergy article, reading aloud to older children brings alive the little child in them and counteracts what Trelease calls the “sweat mentality” around books because their school commitments reduce the time they have to read just for fun.

Children with reading difficulties benefit greatly from read-aloud sessions at home in a secure environment. In an interview with KQED News, Trelease emphasized the importance of what he calls “broadening the menu,” which shows students that not all reading is drill and skill, that the “good stuff—the really great books” are just ahead. A child with dyslexia can relax and just listen to a good book rather than struggle with it.  Read-alouds make reading more fun.

Best of all, memories of books heard last a long time. Trelease said he once received a letter from a retired teacher who reconnected online with former students years after she stopped teaching. The students said the one thing they remembered was the books she read to them. When I was teaching, my favorite part of each day was the time I put aside to read aloud to my 5th and 6th graders. The best thing was students begging me: “please don't stop reading.”

Some Read-Alouds for Big Kids:

  • Holes by Louis Sachar
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  • The Witches by Roald Dahl
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    Matilda by Roald Dahl
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    The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
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    Wonder by R.J. Palacio
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    The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
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    Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt
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    Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
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    (And many other titles on Jim Trelease's website)
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