We know that a big part of the CCSS is to include more informational texts into our students' reading. I quickly discovered I had a "gap" in my reading diet - the genre of informational texts! To help me fill the gap this year, I am going to participate in Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesdays! This is a great link-up hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy. Please visit this website to see other educator's link-ups. My goal is to read at least one informational text each week and post information on the blog. The more books and subjects I read, the more I can encourage (my #OLW for 2014) other teachers to use in their classroom!
This year I have come across a science series, "Scientists in the Field". Several other people have blogged about this series and I was intrigued. I was surprised to find out that this is actually not a new series. I was also surprised to see that the books in the series were not all about animals - most of the book do concentrate on an animal but there are some on other science categories like deep sea volcanoes or space.
The books are complicated, both in topic and the writing. It is written in a narrative informative style. It reads like fiction, but is full of information. The series has incredible photographs and additional information included in cut-aways or other full pages. The books are divided into chapters, which helped me be able to segment the book into parts when reading. The writing is full of information, uses content appropriate vocabulary, but it does make the reader have to focus in and use different strategies to read and understand the information. Because of the chapters, a reader does not have to read the book cover to cover like I did, but can just research the information that may be needed. The authors also include different information in the end papers, including but not limited to: glossary, index, additional websites and books, acknowledgements and additional information pertinent to the subject.
The first book I read in the series was Sea Turtle Scientist by Stephen R. Swinburne. This was a fascinating account of Dr. Kimberly Stewart's work with the sea turtles in St. Kitts. The book goes into detail about the egg-laying and nesting habits of sea turtles, along with the conservation efforts to save these beautiful creatures. It was amazing to learn what a mother sea turtle does to lay and protect her eggs, yet also see the many dangers that can endanger this process. I think it would be amazing to see the egg laying and hatching occur!
This book can be used in a variety of ways - read for information, looking at author's craft, or used for looking at narrative or informative writing. If read cover to cover, I think there would be a fantastic classroom discussion on the process the sea turtles go through as well as what we can do to conserve these incredible creatures.
The second book I read was The Dolphins of Shark Bay by Pamela S. Turner. I learned countless facts about dolphins. Facts that were fascinating. Facts that amazed. And facts that I was shocked to learn. Janet, the main scientist, was looking specifically at the relationships between mother dolphin and calf. The relationships between these mothers and their children were fascinating. They are a social animal and form playgroups and other social cliques. There are dolphins that are fantastic mothers, and dolphins that aren't as interested in their calves. The dolphin young also come together to play and practice other dolphin rituals. We learn about how dolphins are starting to use "tools", in this case sponges, to help them find food. This ability to use tools, show that dolphins are intelligent creatures who are using higher level thinking that other animals are not able to do. The part that shocked me, was learning about the male herding process. When it comes time to mate, males will herd a female dolphin. During this process, 3 males will herd 1 female. Two male dolphins will swim alongside a female, while the other male will "do his thing", then they take turns! The author compares them to "pirates" getting their "wench"! I was shocked to learn this about male dolphins, whole new view of them! Because of this section, I would recommend this book for a mature reader.
This book is a great mentor text for the scientific procedure. The main scientist that studies these animals details her procedure for coming up with a hypotheses and then her process for data collection. This would be perfect for a close reading looking at scientific procedures.
The author did a great job adding humor into this story. There were several times I stopped to chuckle at her "take" on certain habits and rituals.
At the end of the book, there is a little bit of information about controversy of studying dolphins. While we know we learn a lot of information about these fascinating creatures while in captivity, is this the best way to research these creatures? A lot of unanswered questions are presented and are left to the reader's mind to contemplate. The subject of swimming with the dolphins is also brought up. While it was not debated in this book, it was placed in the end of the book after learning about these creatures in their natural habitat. It is up to the reader to make a decision.
These are just 2 examples of the books in this fascinating series. I think the authors in this series seem to be taking interesting topics and writing about them in a way that makes it accessible to middle grade readers. Kudos.