Content Area Learning Comes Alive in Beautiful Picture Books- Part 1

By Irene Fountas

Nonfiction reading is essential for everyone in today’s world and is essential to school success at every grade. Many students have experienced mostly narrative texts in school and have not developed a foundation of expository texts, so they encounter difficulty in content area learning as they move up the grades.  There are essential differences in the way a reader needs to work though fiction or nonfiction text. Let’s think about how fiction and nonfiction texts are different from each other.

Narrative Texts (include biography, which is informational)
  • Organized as a story told in time–setting, characters, plot, theme, told in the order of events (though may have flashback or flash forward)
  • Written as prose in paragraphs
  • Focus is enjoyment
  • Art expands the meaning of the words
  • Often includes dialogue
Expository Texts
  • Overall organization is description, sequence (temporal or chronological), cause and effect, problem/solution, or question/answer
  • Focus is learning new information
  • Includes technical vocabulary
  • Includes a variety of text features such as heads and subheads, charts, glossary

Duke (2003) gives six reasons that we should be sure to include at least 50 percent of reading with nonfiction in today’s classrooms.

  1. Many students prefer nonfiction reading.
  2. Nonfiction is key to success in later schooling.
  3. Nonfiction is ubiquitous in today’s society.
  4. Nonfiction addresses a range of our students’ interests and questions about the world.
  5. Nonfiction texts build our students’ knowledge of their social and natural world
  6. Nonfiction exposes our students to a variety of text features.
Stay tuned for part 2, which will have examples of picture books to use in your classroom!

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