By Christine Sweet
Middle School Humanities and Homeroom Teacher
February 25, 2019
Many people think of non-fiction reading as dry or not as engaging as fiction stories, but walk into the 5th grade classroom in the next few weeks during English class and you will see fifth graders abuzz, deeply engaged in the books they are reading, sharing books with each other, reading over each other’s shoulders, or all gathering around a book and exclaiming “cool!” or “wow!” or “I didn’t know that!”. The fifth graders are experiencing the joy and knowledge that comes from reading nonfiction books.
Teaching our unit on nonfiction reading is a favorite for me. It allows me to help students shift their perspective and discover new passions and interests or strengthen old ones. One of the ways nonfiction reading can deepen or develop interests is through allowing student choice. When the unit begins, the girls preview many books and decide which ones seem interesting to them. They are encouraged to pick books that excite them. We have girls reading books about otters, the solar system, germs, The Civil Rights movement, famous female scientists, and more. Student choice during this unit is crucial - they can engage in any nonfiction topic that piques their interest. This process aligns with Goal 2 “Schools of the Sacred Heart commit themselves to educate to a deep respect for intellectual values.” It is incredibly valuable that girls have independence in their book choice, investing in the education they are receiving. They must feed their passions and answer their own questions.
Working with students to help them develop a toolkit for reading nonfiction text broadly and deeply is crucial for their success in every other aspect of life. Through learning to read nonfiction texts students are invited to grow their own thoughts, ideas, and opinions as they read. Students begin to seek deeper knowledge, answer questions and most importantly begin to question the texts they are reading. These skills carry over to anytime they consume information, finding interest in it and developing their individual personalities. The toolkit that students build while reading nonfiction texts also strengthens their ability to read other texts it carries over and strengthens their consumption of all text’s fiction or nonfiction. Girls end the nonfiction unit more prepared to enter the conversations on the topics they read about. They each become a spokesperson for ideas and topics, and they articulate their opinions.
Engaging in non-fiction texts doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, when you think about it, most of the text we come across in our daily lives (textbooks, websites, news, media, speeches) is non-fiction. Non-fiction reading is full of exciting knowledge, plot twists, fascinating information, and cliffhangers. When we learn to value, appreciate, and develop strategies for consuming non-fiction text, our lives begin to change, and we are better for it.
- Forest Ridge Blog