Friday, May 28, 2010

The Forward Thinking of Nonfiction for Kids

For today’s post, I’d like to piggyback a little on what Tanya Lee Stone wrote last week regarding the frequently asked question, “Will the internet replace nonfiction?” Tanya’s answer to the question is “a solid and emphatic NO!” and she had many insightful, supportive arguments. But, Tanya’s article made me think more on the subject, especially how nonfiction books relate to art, creativity, and learning styles.

My memorable art appreciation presentations have been when I introduced an artist by reading to the class a nonfiction picture book. One of my favorite nonfiction books is Frida by Jonah Winter. Having read the book in several elementary classrooms, I’ve always had all ears listening to every word and all eyes studying the illustrations. Then, the fun begins where we discuss what they learned from my reading of the book, which is filled with insightful observations and never boring. As Tanya points out in her INK article, “Nonfiction books, especially when done well, tell a story. Good nonfiction writers employ techniques used in fiction—point of view, narrative, perspective…the list goes on”.

Art appreciation experts tell us that the real art appreciation begins with conversations about art. How does it make you feel? What do you think the artist is trying to say? Do you like this artwork, and why or why not? Simply reading biographical information about an artist from the Internet does not start these conversations. When talking to kids about creativity and inventors, I tend to focus on how and why an inventor thought up such an amazing idea. And, hopefully, later as a child plays, she too may have a glimmer of an idea. Wonder what our world might be like if Mr. Wright never bought home those toy helicopters – the self-admitted spark for Wilber and Orville.

Education built on simply finding facts from the Internet supports our current educational system that bases learning on the ability to check the one correct box on a test. Reading a well-written nonfiction book to a class incorporates, in a way, of all three learning styles: visual, verbal, and tactile/kinesthetic learners. Furthermore, as we start to also ask questions, discuss feelings, and contemplate motives, that is when we begin to engage the right -brain and creative thinking. And, we all know that right-brain thinking is fundamental to the future of our children.

Stepping off my soapbox now --- got my baby girl’s high school graduation to start planning for this weekend! Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

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