Do you have a child or a student who struggles to find something interesting to read? Try non-fiction!
It may sound counter-intuitive to adults out there who love fiction, but in my experience as a teacher, I noticed that many young readers love non-fiction. Find a topic that interests your child/student, and check the library for some great reading material for you to read aloud or for your child to practice reading independently. This can be an especially powerful motivating tool for boys who don’t always like what their female teachers or moms like to read. 🙂
Looking for a book to start off with? Try Michelle Wie by Mary Dunn. This book is a biography of a Korean-American female golfer, which may interest students who like sports. Michelle Wie is a dedicated athlete who has made records for her achievements in golf at astonishingly young ages.
This book works great as a read-aloud and can be showcased as an example of non-fiction and a biography. It includes a table of contents, page numbers, headings, a timeline, glossary and index. Early readers can use this book to practice, too.
Another benefit of the book is that it is a part of series on athlete biographies for children, so you can keep going in the series if your child/student likes this one!
Best Ages: kindergarten – 2nd grade
Isn’t it incredible that God has given us an orderly world and given some people the incredible capacity to study and further understand that beautiful world?
One such person is Dr. Jane Goodall. Her interest and work in animal studies and environmentalism have inspired many people to take greater responsibility in taking care of wildlife and our earth’s natural resources. You can share her story with your students or children by reading the book Me… Jane by Patrick McDonnell. He tells the story of Jane Goodall’s growing up years in a lovely, simple way. The illustrations earned the book the Caldecott Honor and uniquely included some of Jane’s childhood notes/illustrations in addition to a photo of her as a young adult for the ending. My children really liked reading this book – and so did I!
Check out my post Snowflakes and Science for another excellent children’s biography of a scientist. Sharing these life stories of scientists with children, who already have a natural curiosity, helps to encourage their spirit of inquiry and exploration.
Happy reading! 🙂
Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade
Happy February! Is it snowing where you live? If so, you may enjoy reading Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin.
As a child growing up in Vermont in the 19th century, Willie Bentley was extremely curious about the world around him. That curiosity was heightened when he looked at snowflakes under a microscope and discovered that no two snowflakes were alike. When he was 17 years old, Willie’s parents parents decided to use their life savings to purchase him a state-of-the-art microscopic camera. From that point on, Willie Bentley dedicated his life to exploring nature and sharing his discoveries with the world.
Willie Bentley’s biography provides an outstanding example to children today of creativity, dedication and perseverance. The book also features wonderful sidebar notes for adults, teachers or older students to read to themselves for further information on Willie Bentley’s scientific work. A black-and-white photograph of Mr. Bentley is featured at the end of the book, along with 3 breathtaking samples of the photographs he took of snowflake crystals.
On top of all that, the book won the the Caldecott Medal in 1999 for its incredible illustrations.
Snowflake Bentley is an excellent choice for a read-aloud or to incorporate in a unit on biographies, weather or science.
Note: As a biography, the book does explain that Willie died at the age of 66 years old of pneumonia. If you are uncomfortable discussing the subject of death with your children or students, you can skip the last 2 pages.
Best Ages: 1st grade – 4th grade
- After reading the book together, explain the character trait of “perseverance.” How did Willie Bentley show perseverance? Is there a time in your life when you displayed perseverance that you can share with your child?
- For younger children, make snowflakes out of folded coffee filters. Hang them up with clear fishing line in your child’s bedroom.
- After reading the book together, discuss the word “perseverance.” How did Willie Bentley show perseverance? How can you?
- For 1st and 2nd graders, make snowflakes out of folded coffee filters. Display on a bulletin board and point out to students that each one is different.
- For 3rd and 4th graders, post questions about the book around classroom. Number each question. Instruct students to number a page in their notebooks and walk around to look at each question – doesn’t have to be in order – and write down the answers. (If you’ve never tried this kind of movement in a review, divide your students into groups and set a time for 1 minute. Call out when it’s time to rotate.) Review answers to the questions as a class.
- For 3rd and 4th graders, create a timeline of Willie’s life. You may want students to refer to this Smithsonian webpage. Then ask students to illustrate the part of his life or scientific work they found most interesting.
- Show this PBS video on The Science of Snowflakes.
As a teacher, I have worked with children of varying ability levels and needs. And I find it very important to make my classroom (and as a parent, my home) a welcoming and safe place for every person who enters. It is a priority for me to teach my children to love and accept people of all backgrounds and I was very pleased to find this beautiful book at our local library to read with my daughters at home: Helen Keller’s Best Friend Belle by Holly M. Barry.
The book describes Helen Keller’s childhood, including information about her teacher Anne Sullivan and the journey to discovering a world while blind and deaf. In a touching manner, Holly M. Barry describes the constant friendship Helen found with her dogs and most especially a dog named Belle.
Helen Keller’s Best Friend Belle is one of the best non-fiction picture books I have read in recent months and an exceptional biography for the primary grades. The book includes information on the American Sign Language alphabet, braille system and further reading on the life of Helen Keller.
I hope that you are able to check out this book for your home or classroom!
Best Ages: kindergarten – 2nd grade
- Review the 5 senses with your child. Imagine what it would be like to lose one or more senses (like Helen Keller did as a small child). Which senses would you need to rely on?
- Find things in your home that you can experience with each of your 5 senses. Put them in a large bag and then sort them into small containers or shoe boxes with your child. Remind your child that some things can be experienced by more than one sense!
- Read this article for more information about hearing loss and your child’s health.
- Have a discussion on the differing abilities all people have. Reiterate the need to demonstrate respect for everyone and not be afraid of those differences.
- Review the 5 senses. Which senses did Helen Keller lose as a young child?
- Set up learning stations with these wonderful ideas on 5 senses activities or select one activity for the entire class to do together.
- Check out this funky learning song on the 5 senses.