By Shari Ellmaker and Arielle Gillman
Young readers often get stuck in a particular book genre, especially if they’ve become fond of a series. To expand their palates, Allendale Columbia School’s third grade teachers held a “Book Tasting”, something you can also try at home.
To prepare, we spent some time learning all about a few different genres of texts: biography, fantasy, nonfiction, graphic novel, realistic fiction, and poetry. We also practiced “interviewing” a book to see whether it is a good match for the reader by reading level, interest, etc.
Next, our “Book Taste Testers” entered our classroom restaurant. Their servers, Ms. Gillman and Mrs. Ellmaker, took their requests for an appetizer, an entree, and dessert, and delivered them one at a time. Students sampled the texts and wrote a brief review of each course. By the end of the meal, everyone was full from great books!
Why is reading different genres important for young readers?
Young children love to hear stories read to them over and over again. Many parents encourage their young ones to listen to a different story, but to no avail. Your little one is “feeling like a reader” when they hear predictable text each night. You may notice them “reading” along with you and finishing sentences. They love books with patterns, sound words, and repetitive phrases.
As the children get older, they are more open to different genres. Parents should take this opportunity to explore a new genre. Why?
Students are learning that a genre is a form of text that follows a particular format and structure. Using the word “genre” provides a way for the students to organize and talk about their observations of texts. When a student can identify a genre, they can recognize what they are reading and quickly adjust their reading style. So for example, if they read an article about how to make something, they can read the text at a slower pace in order to follow specific directions. Students will learn information quickly and efficiently when using headings, for example, while reading informational texts.
So, the more children are exposed to different genres, the quicker they will be able to take information and synthesize it for understanding and application. Parents should model reading a variety of genres and spend time reading with and to their children.
How and why should a child “interview” a book?
A reader interviews a book by asking a lot of questions:
- Does the title sound interesting?
- Do I know anything about the author?
- Does the blurb on the back of the book sound interesting?
- Is the book a genre I like to read? (Hint: some books have words like “Mystery”, “Memoir”, or “Fiction” in the corner of the back cover.)
- Did the book win any awards?
- Is the book too hard? Try the beginning and read a page from the middle to decide. Use the “Five Finger Rule” to decide if the book is too hard. Read a random page, put a finger up for each unknown word you encounter. If you reach four or five fingers before the page is finished, it may be too hard. Three may be right and one or two would be too easy.
Setting up a Book Tasting at home is a fun way to get your child interested in different genres and extend your child’s reading range. Have your child help you set up a restaurant-like environment in your kitchen or dining room. Find your favorite apron, table setting, flowers, and notepad to “take the guest’s order.” Use books from your child’s collection and sort them by genre. Begin by serving the child choices from the menu of genres. You can then try swapping roles so the child is the server asking you for different genres you’d like to read. Take some time to interview the book and talk together about your review. By the end of the experience, both you and your young reader will have an appetite for books of all different genres!
Reading Rockets. The Importance of Reading Widely (2010). Retrieved from http://www.readingrockets.org/article/importance-reading-widely.
Kissner, Emily. Using Genre to Help Students Learn from What They Read. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/ascd-express/vol5/511-kissner.aspx.
Inquiry By Design, Inc. Setting Up the Literacy Studio (2013).
Sharon EllmakerShari has been an educator for over 26 years, and teaching at Allendale Columbia for 19. She has taught second, third, and fourth grade with experience in public school, suburban, inner-city, independent, and college-level settings. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education from Bluffton University.
Arielle GillmanArielle has been involved in the field of education, either through volunteering, as a college student, or as a teacher, since she was 14 years old. She has taught students in multiple grades in Penfield, Fairport, Webster, and Newark and has also worked at the Mary Cariola Children's Center and The Community Place of Greater Rochester. She received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Childhood Education from SUNY Fredonia and her Master of Science Degree in Literacy Education from SUNY Geneseo.