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2.4.5: Spotlight on Informational Texts!

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    The Strategy

    When you look for a new book to share during storytime, do you want to find a book that

    ... entertains while increasing children’s knowledge of STEAM – science, technology, engineering, art, and math?
    ... prepares children to use reading to understand complex topics in elementary school and beyond?
    ... encourages critical thinking and vocabulary development during discussions?

    If you answer yes to any of the above, try this: read aloud from a high quality informational text during each storytime session. High-quality elements to consider when choosing an informational text include (Baldwin & Morrow, 2019):

    Professor Nell Duke (2020), a literacy consultant for the informational-text-promoting PBS kids program Molly of Denali, offers these tips for effectively choosing and sharing informational texts:

    • Choose a text that connects to other texts, songs, or activities in the storytime and intentionally talk about those connections. Consider reading the text (or parts of the text) more than once across multiple storytime sessions, reinforcing and expanding ideas. These strategies will help you avoid using informational texts in a disconnected, potentially ineffective way.
    • Keep in mind that you don’t have to read every part of the text, especially if it is an informational book. Choose a part or parts with relevant information and as you share the text, use a think-aloud to explain how you used text features (such as the table of contents or index) or the reading strategy of skimming to find the relevant part.
    • As you plan, choose a purpose for reading the informational text. Before you share the text, explain that purpose to the children and caregivers. For example, talk about what questions you and the children have about the topic that the text might answer.
    • As you read, use enthusiasm and expression just as you would with a storybook.
    • As you read, allow time for interactions. Let the children talk to you, one another, or a caregiver about the text. If children stray from the topic, guide them back by asking how their idea relates to what they learned from the text.
    • After you read, ask the children to talk with you or a caregiver about what they learned or what idea from the text they think is most important – and why.

    The most important strategy for sharing informational texts is talking through how to read an informational text. Familiarize yourself with common text structures and text features of informational texts so that you can talk about them as you read. There are five common structures (Moss, 2004):

    1. cause and effect explains the reason something happened or happens and/or describes the results of an occurrence. Words that signal the use of this structure include: if, so, because, in order to.
    2. compare and contrast identifies similarities and differences between two or more topics. Signal words for this structure include: same as, alike, but, yet
    3. description gives details about a topic so that a reader can understand its essential characteristics or what makes it unique. This structure does not have signal words.
    4. problem and solution explains the components of a problem and its solution or possible solutions. Words that signal the use of this structure include: because, as a result, so that.
    5. sequence explains the order in which something happened, happens, or is done. Signal words include: first, second, then, next, last, before, after.

    Some text features that you can helpfully point out if they are included in your chosen informational text are a table of contents, headings, words in bold or italics, charts, tables, graphs, diagrams, maps, photographs, illustrations, captions, an index, or a glossary. You can briefly explain the purpose of the feature, how it helps the reader to read the book. Naturally, you would not point out and explain the purpose of multiple text features in a single storytime session - that would be one way to lose the interest and attention of your young audience (and maybe even their caregivers!). Instead, you might touch on one or two of these each time you use an informational text, focusing on those that fit within the overall purpose of sharing the text. For example, if you were using an informational text to show an image of a bat, you might identify and explain the purpose of the captions accompanying a photograph of a bat. Or you might explain how you used the table of contents or the index to find the image.

    Here are some examples of how you might explain the purpose of some common text features:

    The Reasoning

    Informational texts, also known as nonfiction or expository texts, are written with the primary purpose of conveying information (Kociubuk & Campana, 2019). Informational texts may include not only nonfiction books but also posters, websites, audio recordings, or videos – as long as the purpose is to convey information (Duke, 2020). Reading aloud from informational texts and discussing their special features (graphs, captions, headings, indexes, etc.) prepares children to read on their own in elementary school by familiarizing them with vocabulary, writing conventions, and background knowledge (Kociubuk & Campana, 2019). Despite the benefits of informational texts in building these early literacy skills, studies have found that few books in this genre are read aloud either in preschools or at home, especially in the homes of families with lower economic status (Pentimonti et al., 2010; Robertson & Reese, 2017). Studies have also found that children enjoy and are excited to talk about informational texts (Kociubuk & Campana, 2019). As a storytime provider, you have the ability to share this genre with children and help close the knowledge gap!

    Troubleshooting Tips

    • If the time you can devote to discovering new storytime material is short, start with the goal of including one informational text in every fourth or fifth storytime and build up to every storytime as your personal collection of excellent texts grows.
    • Keep in mind that you don’t have to share the whole book or read every sentence on a page. Choose the ideas that suit a specific information need, you find most interesting, and/or think the children will engage with. Even sharing just photographs and captions is a great start to helping children learn about this important genre!
    • Try sharing narrative informational books, such as biographies. These have narrative elements such as characters, setting, and suspense that children are familiar and comfortable with from storybooks along with informational text features such as photographs or timelines that you can introduce.
    • For lists of high-quality nonfiction books, check out:

    2.4.5: Spotlight on Informational Texts! is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.