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Finding Nonfiction Books That Reflect and Enrich Kids’ Sense of Themselves

Finding Nonfiction Books That Reflect and Enrich Kids’ Sense of Themselves

Editor’s note: This blog post is an excerpt from the Units of Study in Reading, Grades K–2 book, Supporting All Readers: High-Leverage Small Groups and Conferences, K–2, in the chapter, "Developing a Readerly Identity,” and has been lightly adapted for format.

When readers are able to see themselves within a text, their engagement with the materials deepens. Here we’ve gathered some prompts for teachers to help students develop their readerly identity and apply that knowledge to selecting nonfiction books. 

Helping Students to Develop Their Readerly Identities

While your students are in their reading groups, you can initiate an activity to form and share their readerly identities by saying something like: “I want to know so much more about what’s in your mind and your heart as you read. So—Would you go to the library and build a short stack of two or three books that shows us the sort of books that you love to read, and another stack that shows us the sort of books that don’t interest you at all? Make two piles of books: your ‘yup’ and your ‘yuck’ books. Meet back here with those books in five minutes.”

Set kids up to share with each other, ideally in pairs, and listen in, saying things like, “So you are the type of reader who really likes stories that make you laugh aloud? I love those too. It would be cool if another kid in this class loved funny books. What about you, Marco? Are you the same way?”

As you work through this exercise together, students will feel seen by you and each other as they come to know themselves better as readers. Deepen understanding by asking, “What are you noticing about each other as readers?” and saying, “Will you tell your partner what you see? Start by saying something like, ‘What I notice about what you like best when you read is . . . Can you tell me more about that?’ ‘I’m noticing that you are the kind of reader who . . .’”

Drawing on Readerly Identities to Choose Nonfiction Books 

Once your students have developed their sense of readerly identity, invite them to bring all they know about their identities to the task of choosing nonfiction books from the bins.

Gather your students near the library and introduce the task, “Readers, you have thought so much about your identity today. It’s the perfect time to look through the nonfiction bins in the library to choose books that you’re eager to read. You can draw on your knowledge of who you are as you choose books. Make a pile of a few books that you’d like to read that either connect with your identity or that open you up to brand-new ideas. You can make a pile of each.”

Set readers up to browse and choose books for themselves by asking themselves questions such as:

  • Do I think I will enjoy this book because it connects with my identity?
  • Do I think this book will teach me new information about topics or ideas I already care about?
  • Do I think this book will open up a new world of ideas?

Once readers have picked books for themselves, ask them to consider the same questions for their partner, and make a few book recommendations for them. You can introduce the task like this, “You know, I’m also realizing that we are a reading community! One thing we do as a community of readers is recommend books to one another. I love it when someone recommends a book to me either because they know who I am or because they want to help me discover new ideas. Keep looking through these bins, but this time, can you look for a book you might recommend to your partner since you’ve been getting to know their identity? See if there’s a book (or books) that you might recommend to make them feel really special, because you understand their identity.”

Then you can send your readers off, encouraging them to keep in mind why they choose books for themselves and others. “Readers, what you just did is a big deal. Considering who you are and what you want to open your mind up to when you choose books is a really important way to make book choices. And thinking about who the people around you are to recommend books is something that you can do for the rest of your life to make people feel special.”

The new primary edition of Units of Study in Reading is a comprehensive reading curriculum designed in alignment with the latest research about how kids learn to read, bringing science of reading components into every lesson. The new units focus on structured whole class instruction, including:

  • phonological awareness
  • explicit phonics lessons
  • decoding practice in isolation and in text
  • text-dependent questions
  • support for fluency and oral language development.

Each unit is built around a sequence of challenging texts at the target Lexile level with vocabulary and comprehension support included. You’ll find rich text sets and engaging storylines, five units of knowledge-building curriculum per grade-level, and embedded professional development for educators—summarizing the research around children’s reading development progression and providing instruction in the best methods to teach essential skills. 

By pairing intense work in classrooms with ongoing deep study of research, Units of Study in Reading, K-2 offers a proven, scientifically based literacy approach that gives ownership to students and fosters powerful communities of learning.

Topics: Units of Study, Engagement, Literacy Instruction, Reading, Reading Instruction, Reading Nonfiction, Books, Comprehension, Decoding, Identity, Literacy, Nonfiction, Phonics, Primary Grades, Reading Strategies, Reading Units of Study, Student Texts, A Teacher's Guide to Mentor Texts, UnitsofStudy, Reading fluency, Comprehension strategies, Whole-group literacy, Selecting books, Decodable texts, Decodable books

Date Published: 03/29/24

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