Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Too Much Information?

When my first picture book was published in 1985, getting feedback from a reader usually happened via a fan letter or while I was visiting a school. In our wonderful new digital world, authors can interact with their readers by means of email, blog posts, comments, tweets, videos, review sites, and whatever the tech-genuises will think of next. The reviews so far for my new picture book Seeing Symmetry have been very positive except for one blogger who commented that the book has “too much information.” The image below shows the opening spread, which has fewer images than some of the other pages, but gives the general idea:
A 2-page spread from Seeing Symmetry ©2012
There are many possible reasons for the statement…the blogger was probably looking for a much simpler book for very young children. But hey, what about all the older children, what are they going to read? One very good reason for creating the book at a higher level (that I wasn’t aware of at the time) is that the Common Core State Standard for line symmetry is in 4th grade. Do you want to know what it is? Thought you’d never ask:
4.G.3 Recognize a line of symmetry for a two-dimensional figure as a line across the figure such that the figure can be folded along the line into matching parts. Identify line-symmetric figures and draw lines of symmetry.

The question of how much to include is always an issue for authors. We do the research, compile a zillion things, and reluctantly pare it all down as much as possible. I did “cheat” a little bit by having a couple of pages of notes in the back. And perhaps a Simple Symmetry book is in my future…wouldn’t want to leave out the little guys!

Getting back to the original complaint, that there is “too much” information in this book, I can see how it might be difficult to get through many nonfiction books that are loaded with factoids. Here is a blog post on the Children’s Books and Reading blog that has a good approach using sentence starter cards to help kids process the information better… Non-Fiction Books: Putting Words Into Their Mouths. In short, the adult makes cards with phrases such as “I can see…” and “I can hear…” The adult and child take turns pretending to be a person in the book, the idea being to put yourself into the page and take the time to observe what is going on. There is no need to finish the entire book in one sitting, perhaps one page at a time is just right.

If anyone would like further immersion in the wonderful world of symmetry, I have been having a fabulous time compiling all kinds of symmetrical images on Pinterest. Amazingly, over 800 hundred people are following my symmetry board:
From a rotational name activity to “squish paintings” to Mexican paper banners to student self-portraits, there are all kinds of great ideas to engage kids in the topic. To check it out, please click here.

Too much information…? That's impossible!


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