Using Non-Fiction to Bolster Core Knowledge in the Classroom

Increasing core knowledge is critical to reading comprehension and learning. Vicki Cobb has written a thought provoking post titled An Outside-The-Box Proposal.  She writes about bolstering students’ core knowledge by  including writing by award winning children’s non-fiction authors in the classroom curriculum. In her article she asks several questions:

  • What would happen if teachers and authors worked together to share knowledge and skills?
  • Can an author’s love of the subject infect students with the love of learning?
  • What would happen to learning if non-fiction books replaced textbooks, moving from enrichment to the core knowledge component in the classroom?
  • How would students be affected if they got to meet and talk with the authors?
  • And (this of course appeals to the economist in me), how can we do this within a school’s budget?
  • What would happen to the learning environment of your school if your teachers and award-winning children’s nonfiction authors collaborated in a large-scale project where everyone was involved in sharing knowledge and skills?

I like this idea. In the upper level college classes we start to read sources instead of textbooks and that’s when the real fun in learning takes place. It’s OK when we have them together, but reading the original and talking about it is much more stimulating and it gives everyone more confidence, ending up in more advanced and more agile learning.

My own daughters are drawn to reading science  books, probably in large part because their mother is a microbiologist and I just love the stuff, and we both enthusiastically encourage it. But if they weren’t well written, telling a rich story, I don’t think they’d have anywhere near the interest that they do. On trips to the library they will grab an armful of books about the ocean or physics to take home to read just for pleasure reading.

My kids like to learn. But something about their textbooks doesn’t grab their interest the same way a good, short, well-written science book does. One of the aspects of these kind of books is that they teach in a narrative, story-telling style, that puts the information into a more accessible context. Also, these books are usually teeming with fantastic illustrations and photographs -who doesn’t love any book by Nic Bishop? When written this way, the books hold kids’ interest so much better and they retain a lot more of what they have read. After finishing a good book they want to go back to the library to find another. When we’re in the  bookstore, they pull them from the shelves and ask to buy them.

So, go out and get smart. Get an armload of good science books today and start reading. I’m sure you would like Pelican’s Catch by Janet Halfmann. There’s many more out there that everyone in the family will enjoy.

Leave a Reply