non-fiction reading and real-life learning with fish
We’re fish-sitting, actually, for what may be close to 20 fish.
Two separate ponds with a waterfall and lily pads. And a back yard like you wouldn’t believe that makes me want to get work on my own cruddy back yard like right now and one that Maddy has said is ‘the most beautiful place she’s ever seen’.
Anyway, I’m loving our fish-sitting because sure–I get so see what a yard can look like when the kids are out of college and you have time to into it. But ‘fish-sitting’ has also opened up the perfect opportunity to sneak in a little learning about a topic that is of high-interest, timely, and completely relevant to our lives.
All you need is an open door for an opportunity to get kids more comfortable with non-fiction reading, and this is one of them. Two girls on the Kids Post even had their picture taken with a big ole fish this week. We had to do some research and reading!
- Real-Life and Non-Fiction Reading: Probably about once a week, we head down the street to our neighbors’ house to feed the fish. But this is the first time ever that we’re in charge of the fish. For several days. So we’ve spent time watching them, feeding them, hanging out with them.
This time, Maddy and Owen and Cora have begun to sit back after throwing handfuls of fish pellets in the water and really look at these guys.
And they’ve begun to ask questions. Tons of questions. And any teacher knows that questions are a great starting point for real-life learning.
How can they see in this dirty water?
Do they close their eyes when they sleep?
How do they swallow without chewing?
Can they see us?
Where are their ears?
I told them that I wasn’t really sure of how to answer these questions but that we had to go to the library that afternoon to return some books anyway, so why don’t we look for some books that may help us? They were psyched.
We hunted down as many fish-related books as we could find, threw them in our bag, and headed back to the home front.
My vision for all of us sitting down and reading them that afternoon fizzled when the sun came out and the kids wanted to run out back when we got home, and that’s fine. Over the last few days, though, we’ve been picking up the books, reading and re-reading, skimming, and looking at the pictures.
Some books Maddy can read herself, and some I’ve read to everyone. I wanted to have a variety. Even if non-fiction texts are above a reader’s own ability, it’s fine; parents or teachers can read the text during a read-aloud and the benefits of doing so can benefit vocabulary, knowledge of informational text structure, content area learning, reading interest and engagement with the topic (from “Informational Text Use in Preschool Classroom Read-Alouds,” by Pentimonti, Zucker, Justice, & Kaderavek in The Reading Teacher, May 2010).
We picked up several non-fiction easy-readers about fish which I didn’t actually love; I found the text features to be really wild and too hard for emerging readers to follow. I am a bigger fan of simple non-fiction texts with basic text features–easy to read Table of Contents, Index, Chapter Titles, photo captions, etc. The reading a-z book I printed was better in that respect (Is That a Fish? by Susan Hartley).
I also mixed some fiction with our non-fiction picks so that we could talk–generally–about the differences between them. Of course, Maddy’s got a grasp on it by now, but it never hurts to review. And it helps for Owen and Cora to have a head’s up on concepts they’ll learn down the road. We read Fishing With Grandpa by Robert Charles (from reading a-z) and A Fishy Story, by Marcus Pfister along the mix of non-fiction.
We’ve read non-fiction books based on topics of interest before, and it is well worth the time it takes to hunt down the books and sort through them with your kids.
It’s so cool to hear kiddos share facts that they’ve learned or remembered, and it makes them feel so proud.
Especially when it comes to science concepts, enjoying non-fiction texts in a read-aloud when kiddos are at an early age, is mucho helpful. In fact, “teacher-led read-alouds can provide the necessary support as children encounter potentially difficult content, text features, and challenging vocabulary” which was definitely the case when we were reading the texts from the library that had text and captions and photos all over the place (from “Introducing Science Concepts to Primary Students Through Read-Alouds: Interactions and Multiple Texts Make the Difference,” by Heisey & Kucan in The Reading Teacher, May 2010).
The National Science Education Standards (National Research Council, 1996) “emphasized the importance of introducing science concepts early on” in children’s lives, and many researchers have started to “acknowledge the power and usefulness of integrating science and literacy instruction” (also from “Introducing Science Concepts. . .”). It makes sense; reading should be–needs to be–integrated with content-area learning. Literacy instruction is just that important. And if we want our kiddos–boys and girls included–to be turned on to science from the get-go; there’s a lot out there to learn and explore!
And that’s that. Happy reading, researching, and learning along with your every day experiences!