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an everyday nonfiction: newspaper reading

Just like many families who incorporate book-reading into bedtime routines, my kiddos find breakfast time is a time for newspaper reading.

Newspaper reading is a natural, easy way to incorporate a little bit of nonfiction reading into our day. Some days the articles we read lead to simple internet research later in the afternoon, and sometimes what we read in the morning paper gives us a starting point for our library book searches or dinnertime chats.

Other times, the articles (especially the Ever Wonder. . . column which answers questions like ‘Why We Burp?; Pass Gas?; Cough?; or Blow Our Nose?) throws us into near hysterics. Sure, it’s not really breakfast table material, but these topics totally get my kiddos wondering, listening, and interested. And that’s what counts.

Today, after we checked out the weather and Owen counted four cloudy days and only one sunny (boo!), Maddy noticed the Rubics Cube on the KidsPost. She said, Hey, there’s that thing I play with at Nanny and Pap’s house! Read about that, Mommy!

And so our day began:

  • Newspaper Reading and Making Connections: The KidsPost article, Imagine no TV or Internet really gave us something to talk about and connect with. It indicated that 2010 marks some major anniversaries of well-known things in our kids’ lives, like Nintendo (25th anniversary), Rubik’s Cube (30th), Green Eggs and Ham (50th), Bubble Wrap (50th), and Monopoly (75th). We were really stuck on two–the cube and the wrap.

We got stuck because we had direct connections with both Rubik’s Cube and Bubble Wrap, and making personal connections is a major way of getting little ones interested in nonfiction texts.

I read about Rubik’s Cube, and because Maddy and Owen have distinct, recent memories of playing with it at my parents’ house, they thought it was so crazy that it was once called the ‘Magic Cube’. Really, it’s not major information, but most likely, it’ll stick with them because they had a personal connection to it.

The minute I saw ‘Bubble Wrap’ under the 50th anniversary heading, I said, Oh my gosh. You guys are going to love this one. Remember how we’ve been playing that strange and crazy game on the computer about bubble wrap? Listen to this. . .

My kids, like many people, loooove bubble wrap. They love to jump on it, smash it, twist it, and sit on it. They love new, untouched pieces, and they love to find an old piece and search for that one last, lonely bubble to pop.

So a few weeks ago, when I ran across a website to help teach mouse control using bubble wrap, they’ve been obsessed. (It’s already on my half-finished post on Best Computer Games for Our Little Guys, but I’ll share it now because I just have to: Bubble Wrap, Computer-Style).

I read the section, and very casually, as I read, we made connections:

  • Bubble Wrap started as a mistake?! We all make mistakes, but we don’t make bubble wrap! What were they doing?
  • Plastic wallpaper? Can you imagine if we had bubble wrap on our walls?
  • What if the bubbles all got smashed? Would there be a button you could press to fill them back up again?
  • I wouldn’t want bubble wrap on my walls. No way. It would be too loud.

Even without me saying ‘Okay, here’s a connection. . . ‘ by relating their own experiences to both Rubik’s Cubes and Bubble Wrap, Maddy, Owen, and Cora were making personal connections with the text. And when readers make connections to texts, they’re more likely to remember, relate to, and understand what they’re reading.

Breakfast was over before we knew it, but I’m betting that the next time Maddy, Owen, or Cora get their hands on bubble wrap, they’ll wonder about it as wallpaper and maybe–just maybe, down the road–they’ll remember that occasionally mistakes can pay big dividends.

We love the newspaper because we learn about lightening bugs, about why we should exercise, about super-tough kids, and local must-see museums. We boo-hooed when our favorite panda left for China, we laughed our tails off at silly orangutans, and we talked our way through the earthquake in Haiti.

I personally wish more families would use the newspaper to sneak in a teeny bit of learning, especially when so often kiddos can make direct connections with what’s being read. It’s also another way that parents can model reading comprehension strategies for their tiny ones even before the little guys can read.

As Linda B. Gambrell, former president of the International Reading Association, has said, “teachers of reading should read themselves” and though we all hope that our students will develop into “lifelong readers who read for pleasure”, the best way to encourage this is to model, mentor, and support them in doing so (Promoting Pleasure Reading, Reading Today, August 2007).

What better way of getting them started on this path than by reading the newspaper each day?

If you haven’t checked the Share a Story, Shape a Future Tour yet, please consider doing so. It’s awesome, and the resources available are incredible.

This post will be part of Day 3, Just the Facts: The Nonfiction Book Hook, hosted by Sarah Mulhern of The Reading Zone.

(Share a Story, Shape a Future button designed by Elizabeth Dulemba)

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