On Monday, I led a professional development training on Using Nonfiction Picture Books as Mentor Texts for Writing. This was the second time I led this training and each time I had similar responses by teachers. A certain "awww" descends over the group when they see all of the quality nonfiction books that I carefully select for the training.
As I prepared for the training, I sorted and stacked and re-stacked and re-arranged books in an effort to select a range of books for different reading levels, interest levels, writing styles, and writing structures. Since I was not exactly sure how many teachers would show up on the Monday before school started, I debated on the number of books to bring. I needed enough for them to have a stack of books for each activity. This is what the floor of my room looked like as I prepared to sort and pack books.
I started to sort by similar topics or by author or by series. Additionally, I considered the purpose of the training and though it was for K-8 teachers, I knew I had at least one high school teacher that planned on attending. At that point, I pulled out a stack of long-form nonfiction and filled one tub with just books for older readers.
The training was scheduled for our Board Room. I used the area where Board Members sit to display the books. The books literally went from one end to the other.
As part of the morning activities, I provided two times to just select a stack of books and read them and think about the writing style and structure used in each book and how children would learn from these books. An undercurrent of excitement flowed through the group as they browsed and selected books to look at more closely.
Sometimes, I would see a book that the group had overlooked and would pull it out and show a teacher how it paired well with one that she had in her stack. Other times, I would share other titles by an author that they were inquiring about. There was no shortage of conversations about books in the room that morning.
Despite the three hours scheduled for the training, we ran out of time. There were so many books to talk about and discuss. At the end, I had to cut out a few of the writing exercises. However, we did get to a poetry exercise that matched up with Joyce Sidman's Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold. It was exciting to see a few teachers who claimed to not like poetry write some wonderful poems about the fox on the cover of the book.
In the end, what I came away with was the numerous comments about not knowing that these books existed and how incredible they were and where could they get some of them. Fortunately, we have a well-stocked public library and a great indie in town that carries many of the titles I was sharing. However, I was truly reminded that teachers need exposure to quality nonfiction. They need to spend time flipping through the pages, and to read sections of these books or hear about ways to use them in instruction. The more they learn about these amazing books the more they will seek them out and incorporate them into instruction.
For each of us that participates in something like the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge #nfpb2015, we need to keep reading and continue to share out. You are making a difference when you share out or book talk to colleagues, and in turn a child will benefit.
Some thoughts on new or upcoming releases to share with teachers and librarians:
Tree of Wonder: The Many Marvelous Lives of a Rainforest Tree by Kate Messner; Illustrated by Simona Mulazzani (Chronicle Books, August 11, 2015) - Messner's newest picture book takes readers to the rainforest of Costa Rica and to the Almendro Tree. I realized that I have very few books on the rainforest in my collection and I am glad to add this concept book to my book collection.
Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton by Don Tate (Peachtree Publishers, September 1, 2015) - As a lover of books and reading, I am always amazed by stories of those who persevere and teach themselves to read (and write). Tate shares the story of a lesser known African American poet from the time pre-Civil War and shares the story. With beautiful illustrations, and engaging text, readers learn of the life and struggles and successes of George Moses Horton.
Look for these books at your local indie bookstore or community library!
Don't forget to link up your nonfiction reviews: