Nonfiction texts make up 50-85% of books in children’s libraries (Tomlinson & Lynch-Brown Essentials of Children’s Literature). It’s a statistic that takes a moment to sink in, but there you have it. Now, think about the books you read in your classroom. How many of them do you think are nonfiction? If you are like me, it’s probably not 50-85%. What does that mean for our students? It means that many students will struggle to read 50-85% of the books in libraries because they do not have experience with this type of genre in their early classrooms.
It’s easy to assume that because a child is reading at a certain benchmark, it means that they are able to read any book at that level. Nope! Different genres present different text features and structures, and it is through repeated experience with a specific genre that students learn to read and write in that genre.
The first text feature that your students will encounter is the Table of Contents.
- What do you think the numbers 4, 8, 16, 22…etc mean?
- What do you think the words next to them might mean?
One of my favorite things to tell students is that you don’t have to read informational texts in order! It BLOWS their minds! It’s a fun way to start comparing nonfiction and fiction. They will often say something along the lines of, “If I started Snow White in the middle of the story, I would be really confused!”
Students have fun trying to read the pronunciations, and putting the definitions in their own words. They come to recognize glossaries as a valuable tool, and they excitedly flip to it every time they come across a word in bold!