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Independent reading in 3rd, 4th, 5th grade


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My ds loves to read fiction. He will read for hours during school just to pass the time.  I let him pick his fiction books.  I am trying to get him to read for 15 minutes daily from a science or history text.  Right now, I have him doing a short chapter from The Complete Book of United States History.  He doesn't like it but he does do it.  I also am trying to get him to read science each day, again about 15 minutes from Let's Read and Find Out books.  He does not like these, so I picked up a bunch of Science Comic books from the library to try.

I want some advice on how to move from ds loving to read fiction to transitioning him into reading non-fiction that he doesn't really care for.  How does this work in your house?  What should independent reading across the curriculum look like in 3rd, 4th, 5th grade?  Do you focus in on finding books the child likes in these areas, or do you make them read whatever you choose depending on what you are studying?  Any advice is appreciated!

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Oh, this is hard.

So, I think this is one of the benefits of us using the Elson Readers over the past few years.  There are discussion questions to go along with the fiction, biographies, sketches, and poetry, so ds has had to read a variety of things and read for information, because we will be discussing it after.  It makes him read deeper because he knows he will be expected to have thoughts on the matter.

In 3rd, there wasn't much independent reading, even though he read well.  It was just the reader and fiction books.  By 4th, I expected independent reading in history.  In 5th, we added slightly more independent science readings.  This year is 6th and each week he has, in addition to his main textbooks:

-1 science reading

-1 math reading

-1 historical biography

-a literature book

-3 pieces from the Elson Reader

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It is hard.  I do not want to crush his love of reading.  He really likes it because I never forced it. So, I am thinking of reading the Science Comics to him instead of sort of forcing him to read it independently.  I think I originally made science independent to help save me time, but maybe that isn't the way to go.

This is helpful.  I definitely want to check out the Elson Readers.

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I did think of something else that helped.  Since 2nd or 3rd he's been in a library book club.  He hasn't always liked the books chosen, but he understood it was important to read them if he wanted to participate.  I think it was another step into independent reading.

But when I thought about things further, there were things I most definitely assigned as part of school, and there was independent time where I didn't care what he read.  Over the summer I tend to assign fiction books I think he would like, just to break him out of his comfort zone.  Like, this summer I assigned The Hobbit and The Mysterious Benedict Society.  They were not books he would have chosen on his own but he needed to branch out his fun reading beyond Wings Of Fire, lol.

This year his supplemental books are all assigned reading (as in, read at least this much per day, the book must be finished by this day).  There's a good mix in there.  But none of his subjects are even mostly independent.  It's just I don't have to read to him, so he can do the reading, we can discuss, and do the activities/labs/mapwork together.  And that's where I had to teach him (for a long time, years) HOW to read for information.  What steps to take, how to silently assess understanding part by part, how to pick out the main idea and supports...

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My two readers are 18 and in college now. (I miss the young years.)

If your boy loves fiction, you can find good fiction on the subjects. For science, I'd get bios (for his age) on great scientists. The idea is to get him interested in the topic through a good fiction book. For example, he might read about Edison and want to learn more about Edison's inventions from there.

I love your idea about the comic science books (I never would have thought of that).

And history? There's a zillion awesome historical fiction books out there for his age.

Stories stay w/ people. I'll never forget many stories we learned in the Little House books (Trail of Tears, how the Rail Roads started, how Pa tried to take land that wasn't his and a lot more).

The Little House books are just an example. There are some really great books on the Depression, on the Civil War (Across Five Aprils), the Rev. War and so on. There is so much out there. I'm so jealous. We did a ton of read-alouds, just to share the experience. So fun.

I read Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn aloud so that I could talk with them about tough topics as we read.

But textbook reading? I'm honestly impressed that the textbook companies figured out how to make something as exciting as history. . . a snooze.

Have fun, I think your son sounds amazing!

Wendy

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In my household (and I’m not saying I’m correct), I read aloud almost all the books I feel they will balk at. 
 

there are a great number of historical fiction books out there. Check out beautiful feet, simply Charlotte mason, story of the world, or bookshark for a list. 

I’m drawing a blank for science though.  Science comics? My older 2 read some of those. 
 

At that age, I didn’t make my kids read them. Nowadays, for my oldest who is 12, I ask that he give it a try. Read about 1/3 of the way and if he still can’t get into it, then we skip the book or I read it. 
 

Some kids are not going to like reading nonfiction and some are not going to like reading fiction. I can tell you I don’t like reading nonfiction. 😂

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I have a first-grader who doesn't read independently, not even fiction. So this is just a speculation not from too much experience.

I think reading nonfiction is easier when you already know a little about the subject — maybe easier and easier the more you already know about it. But kids don't know anything about any subjects. If that's right, it suggests that you might have more success going into some depth on one subject over a long time (very slowly at the beginning of that time), than sampling from many subjects.

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26 minutes ago, Alicia64 said:

If your boy loves fiction, you can find good fiction on the subjects. For science, I'd get bios (for his age) on great scientists.

Love this!  Will definitely look for these.

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I don't know what level of nonfiction books you are aiming to get him to read, but I have had a lot of luck strewing narrative picture books about science and history. Like Island: A Story of the Galápagos, If You Take Away the Otter, The Polio Pioneer, etc. I get a lot of ideas from Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K–12 published each year by the National Science Teaching Association.

There are lots of great history picture books too: One Small Blue Bead, Apple to Oregon, The Babe and I, etc.

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2 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

Like Island: A Story of the Galápagos, If You Take Away the Otter, The Polio Pioneer, etc. I get a lot of ideas from Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K–12 published each year by the National Science Teaching Association.

There are lots of great history picture books too: One Small Blue Bead, Apple to Oregon, The Babe and I, etc.

I never thought of picture books.  Great idea.

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I came across an interesting thought in a book on reading. They said that the difference between readers and nonreaders is that readers *have a list* of their next reads. So think about this. It's not that you need to tell him what to read, but you want to nurture his generation of nonfiction books *he* would like to read. Basically you need a trip to the library. 🙂

I agree with the suggestion on picture books. I use them extensively with my ds. One tip is to try a lexile finder.

https://hub.lexile.com/find-a-book/search

This is one I use frequently. You can take fiction books he's enjoying right now and search for their lexile, then use that lexile to create a target range (+/-50) to find books in more genres and across more topics. Our library system is really terrific about interlibrary loans (no fines, generous return windows), so I'll go through and request 50+ books on a theme at a target level so we have a pile to choose from. Super fun. Or of course you can take him to the library. But until he realizes what he likes, maybe some seeds, the strewing @wendyroo described, would be in order.

I also used a reading diversity chart with my dd at that age. Have you thought about some historical fiction? If he's functioning at that 3rd/4th level, he might enjoy COFAs (childhood of famous americans series).

The other thing you could do is try periodicals, workbooks with short nonfiction selections, document or photograph based workbooks, infographics workbooks, or other things that let him explore strategies of reading for nonfiction. 

Given how avidly he reads, I doubt that it's that he won't like reading nonfiction so much as that he's neither motivated nor being provided anything interesting to read. I think you can expect that when he's into a topic and wants the info, he'll jump right in and read nonfiction without a problem. And I think you'll find if you provide him *well written* nonfiction (as well written as the fiction he's currently reading) that he'll engage with that as well. Muse magazine, for instance, has nicely written articles that my dd might not have chosen on her own but didn't buck. Later, in high school, I had her reading essay collections across topics in science, etc. and she had no trouble. I really think it's more important to let them read than it is to fuss over what they read. It will probably pan out over the long haul if you just let it. The potato chip reading, the long hours of reading anything and everything, builds fluency and proficiency and vocabulary and general knowledge and all sorts of things that will build together to making the nonfiction come easily when it's time. The major gap at that point will be understanding text structures, and you'll handle that by teaching outlining, no problem. 

Fret less, read more. 🙂 

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My older three kids responded pretty well at those ages to having a big basket of books to chose from (a science basket and a history basket) and picking something to read for 15 minutes from each basket  (My youngest DS is dyslexic and still doesn't do much of any independent reading - I don't expect him to really read for learning content yet).  

I would go to the library and get a diverse range of books of different styles on a topic we were studying (illustrated picture books, books heavy on facts/pictures. graphic novels, etc).  Sometimes I would have them look through a library stack/section with me before we left the library and I would ask them to pick out five books on a given broad topic that look interesting -- sometimes it would not be the books I thought they would be interested in!

My three older kids all seemed to develop in their interest and ability to put sustained attention to a textbook in middle school.  But none of my kids were very interested in a straight-up textbook style book to read before 6th grade.  

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42 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

I came across an interesting thought in a book on reading. They said that the difference between readers and nonreaders is that readers *have a list* of their next reads. So think about this. It's not that you need to tell him what to read, but you want to nurture his generation of nonfiction books *he* would like to read. Basically you need a trip to the library. 🙂

I have not found this to be particularly true for any of my kids.

My boys happily, gleefully free read for 2-3 hours a day. So I think we can call them "readers", but they seldom have a list of their next reads. In fact, just like I had to put peas on their plates 100 times as toddlers before they were even willing to touch them with a fingertip, I find I often have to let them see unfamiliar books from a distance for weeks at a time before they are willing to crack the cover.

So they do "have a list", but it only ever includes sequels of absolutely familiar books. Which is fine, of course, but quite limiting.

If left to their own devices, when they run out of sequels they will just cycle back to rereading old books. Again, that is fine, but for my kids it is a sign of their executive function weakness and anxiety. The library is too overwhelming, none of the books look "right" (except the very familiar ones they have read 1000 times), the (dubious) reward of new books to read isn't motivating enough for them to put forth the effort of looking on the shelves, etc.

Currently I spend about two hours a week at home searching book lists, Booksource and the library catalog, putting books on hold, requesting library purchases, etc. Then I spend about an hour picking up holds and browsing the library shelves myself. Typically we have about 300 books checked out at a time and 50-100 being processed in the hold system and trickling into our library. Pre-pandemic, I spent about the same amount of time, but less at home placing holds, and much more carting the kids to the various libraries in our system and hauling home hundreds of books off their shelves...almost all of them chosen by me because the kids just couldn't do it.

I know for a fact that when I stop procuring vast quantities of books that I think will appeal to them, they stop being readers. There have been times in the past that I continued to take them to the libraries each week, but I did not have it in me to put as much of my energy into searching for and selecting books. Pretty soon our collection of library books dwindled and got stale...and right after that the kids stopped reading nearly as much and started fighting and agitating for screens instead.

So for now, I have decided that supporting their reading is just as important to me as supporting their healthy eating or social development...and that means I still willingly shoulder most of the burden of procuring books, planning meals and arranging play dates.

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Well, our 2 oldest (currently 11 and almost 10) read both fiction and non-fiction. One slightly prefers non-fiction; the other fiction. To turn them into readers who read a wide variety, I've done various things. First, I've made RA a priority in their lives. Basically, if a child asks me to RA, I do. I'll put off/skip doing lots of things, but requests for RA go immediately to the top of the do-to list. Second, I spend a lot of time researching and choosing library books to check out each week. Third, I strew a lot of books around, way more than I could ever RA. Fourth, once they'd had their own library cards for a bit, I told them they had to choose at least one fiction and one non-fiction book each week. At this point, choosing some of both is just habit for them. Finally, I make sure they see me reading a variety of things. 

Of course, none of that guarantees someone will enjoy reading at all, much less that they will like both fiction and non-fiction. Kid #3 seems to lean heavily fiction in his choices so far, but he isn't an independent reader, so there is definitely still time for that to change. 

And I agree with @wendyroo that when I don't put effort into choosing a variety of books, they read less and squabble more. But when there is a feast of books, they consume them. 

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So I have a follow-up question to this... my third grade daughter also reads ALL the time. She primarily reads fiction, but really enjoys science as well.

Right now, as part of her school I'm asking her to do the "pick a science book and read for 15 minutes each day" thing mentioned above. What I'm curious about is the best way to process that with her. Should I just have her narrate it back to me? We've tried that and I feel like she's not quite sure how to narrate something that is so factual and doesn't have a unifying storyline. Should I sit down with her and teach her how to pick out to the main points in these more informative science books? I'm nervous that would take the fun out of it for her, as well as the sense of control she enjoys in choosing it on her own. She enjoys the non-fiction science reading--I just can't quite tell what she's getting out of it.

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6 hours ago, beffers said:

So I have a follow-up question to this... my third grade daughter also reads ALL the time. She primarily reads fiction, but really enjoys science as well.

Right now, as part of her school I'm asking her to do the "pick a science book and read for 15 minutes each day" thing mentioned above. What I'm curious about is the best way to process that with her. Should I just have her narrate it back to me? We've tried that and I feel like she's not quite sure how to narrate something that is so factual and doesn't have a unifying storyline. Should I sit down with her and teach her how to pick out to the main points in these more informative science books? I'm nervous that would take the fun out of it for her, as well as the sense of control she enjoys in choosing it on her own. She enjoys the non-fiction science reading--I just can't quite tell what she's getting out of it.

Welcome to the boards! You might like to start a new thread. 🙂  How old is your dd? Depending on her age, some of the very visual, engaging narrative nonfiction books (think Melissa Stewart, etc.) might be appropriate. When my dd was say 4th/5th gr, she was reading a LOT of some genres and completely skipping others, so we did a diversity reading list where she had to read across genres during the week. However that only compelled *one* science book, *one* poetry option, etc. per week. So I'm trying to imagine whether you're saying it's a longer book (all text) or multiple short books or what.

When my dd was older (junior high, high school) I switched to response journals. You're asking how to help her narrate, and personally I think if the goal was *pleasure* and encouraging diverse interests I would *not* require a narration. You could just as easily work on narration (which is important!) during your actual science instruction time. Or you could go at it very loosely, merely asking her to text or make a pecha kucha (quick 20 image powerpoint) or tell you the most interesting thing she learned out of *one* selection for the week. If she's 4th gr and up, you could encourage her to outline one of her reading selections for the week.

https://mindwingconcepts.com/pages/methodology See the connection between narrative and expository.

https://mindwingconcepts.com/blogs/news/46846209-expository-my-research-cut-and-fold-booklet?_pos=16&_sid=cf327a44e&_ss=r  Free pdf you can use either in part or whole to apply to expository work. This will make what you're looking for very clear.

If she's very young, it's really enough to just ask what the most interesting thing was in the book or what she learned from it or what surprised her or any other basic narrative prompt. If she's older and you're wanting some structure, check out those links.

If she's crafty, consider book report projects by Michael Gravois https://www.amazon.com/s?k=michael+gravois&ref=nb_sb_noss

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6 hours ago, beffers said:

She enjoys the non-fiction science reading--I just can't quite tell what she's getting out of it.

That's a win! What happens if you try to talk about it? 

My dd would shut down if you asked her what she read about. Sometimes I think it was the executive function aspect of her ADHD and she just didn't have it all organized in her brain to get it out. That's where that explicit instruction can help. And for her it was also just that her language would sometimes shut down, especially if she was tired or anxious.

So if you're asking her what she read about and what she thought was interesting and nothing is coming out, it doesn't necessarily mean you're doing something wrong. It might just mean you'll have to step up your game with more tools. It's definitely something to try because you want to know what happens. 

Hopefully she'll just start rattling off and tell you what was interesting about it and that will be that. 🙂 

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My DS doesn’t read much in his free time. He was a precocious reader & loves stories (both reading / listening to them & writing his own)… but he also has ADHD. Unless he’s strapped into the car or worn out at the end of the day, it’s hard for him to initiate. As such, independent reading has always needed to be a part of our school day. 

He’s in 3rd this year & while I’ve occasionally assigned a pure nonfiction book for him to read, we’ve had far more “buy in” with historical / scientific realistic fiction. He’s a series kid - if I can get him on the first book, he’ll plow through them all. He liked Let’s Read & Find Out, Magic Treehouse, & Andrew Lost, in kinder, but I don’t think he read any of those himself. In 1st grade it was Magic School Bus. Last year he read fiction almost exclusively - barring a handful of the Building Blocks of Science - but absolutely loved the George’s Secret Key series I read aloud, which involves a ton of astrophysics / astronomy. This year he’s become interested in the I Survived books. 

Maybe these types of books could work as a bridge to pure nonfiction? There’s plenty of solid science & history in them - I see no rush to get to textbook-style “pure nonfiction”. That I think will come naturally over time as it gets harder to efficiently acquire the depth of information she’s seeking on a given topic. 

Edited by Shoes+Ships+SealingWax
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13 hours ago, beffers said:

Right now, as part of her school I'm asking her to do the "pick a science book and read for 15 minutes each day" thing mentioned above. What I'm curious about is the best way to process that with her.

I check out books that are directly relevant to what we are studying in science / history at the time & we discuss those after reading. 

DS selects his own books for independent reading & they often don’t fit our current topics - he’s read books about Hurricane Katrina & Pompeii while studying the Middle Ages, for example. I just started having him narrate to me from his independent reading this year (3rd grade). He narrates a 2-3 sentence summary & I type it up in a Reading Log. He’s currently learning to type, so he’ll take ownership of the Log in the spring. 

There are also journals from Thinking Tree designed for a “read 15min from XYZ” approach - each page has space to narrate from the day’s reading, draw pictures, etc. Not our cup of tea, but I know others whose kids really enjoy them. 🙂 

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19 hours ago, beffers said:

Right now, as part of her school I'm asking her to do the "pick a science book and read for 15 minutes each day" thing mentioned above. What I'm curious about is the best way to process that with her. Should I just have her narrate it back to me? We've tried that and I feel like she's not quite sure how to narrate something that is so factual and doesn't have a unifying storyline.

Take everything I say with a grain of salt because my oldest is 4.5.

As an adult I wouldn't know how to narrate a science text. If I read a science text and you asked me a question related to the topic I could give you an answer to your question and cite you the books/texts/ etc. that I got the information from. Or I have a problem to solve and read a science text to help me come up with a solution. (I have High Frequency Magnetic Components sitting a my bedside right now because my kid asked about magnets this week. I do science texts as an adult.)

I think for assessment (given how I use science text as an adult) I would give her a set of questions related to what she is about to read and ask her to find the answers. Or just ask for something interesting she found out from the text.  

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22 hours ago, Clarita said:

As an adult I wouldn't know how to narrate a science text.

I don't know you and whether you have narrative language challenges, a language based disability, etc., but just in general I think most adults would be able to narrate about something. What happens if someone comes in and asks what you're reading about? What do you say? Do you like to share what you've been reading about? 

It's true, some people find it very hard. But really, there's a basic list of text structures we're trying to teach them to notice:

description

compare/contrast

cause/effect

list

sequence

problem/solution

persuasion

argument

https://mindwingconcepts.com/pages/methodology

And odds are when you read materials as an adult you *notice* these structures and would naturally share details that fit one of them if someone were asking you what you were reading about (ie. asking you to narrate). If you let the sample get *too big* it would be hard, sure! But even then you'd probably naturally pick out one of those text structures and use it to drive the conversation. 

Narrative is essential in conversation.

 

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1 hour ago, PeterPan said:

It's true, some people find it very hard. But really, there's a basic list of text structures we're trying to teach them to notice:

description

compare/contrast

cause/effect

list

sequence

problem/solution

persuasion

argument

https://mindwingconcepts.com/pages/methodology

This makes more sense. 

1 hour ago, PeterPan said:

If you let the sample get *too big* it would be hard, sure! But even then you'd probably naturally pick out one of those text structures and use it to drive the conversation. 

That is a good idea. I do struggle with this. 

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4 minutes ago, Clarita said:

I do struggle with this. 

This is why moms enjoy homeschooling, because they get to learn so much too! Homeschoolers have been talking about the value of narration for years, but narrative language is *really big* in intervention right now. My ds has an IEP with goals in it for narrative language. The program I linked (Story Grammar Marker) is a good one for people who need intervention level resources. https://www.languagedynamicsgroup.com/story-champs-2/story-champs-about/  is another. 

Here's a terrific webinar where you can get up to speed on narrative language very quickly. It comes naturally for many kids, but some kids (and adults) benefit from explicit instruction. 🙂 

 

 

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So I have one that loves fiction, and one that loves non-fiction. Non-fiction kid is easy to get to read fiction: I hand him a list, and he treats it like a research project, but at night he chooses something facts-only. My fiction-lover will read non-fiction for her science class but won't willingly just choose a science book or even biography by herself for nighttime reading.

The "bridge" books I have found are the Horrible Histories (and the math versions). Both kids will read those willingly and happily. It presents the information I think appealingly enough that the fiction-lover can use her imagination, and enough factual information that my nonfiction-lover can get the information he's looking for, just in a laughing way. It's a bit gory though. Well to me, they don't seem phased at al lol.

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