Number the Stars by Lois Lowry is one of my favorite books. Not only is it an intriguing story, but it offers a wonderful opportunity to develop students’ background knowledge about World War II. Kids as young as fifth grade can read and enjoy this book, but it is essential to first develop adequate background knowledge about World War II. As you can imagine, most ten to thirteen year-olds have little knowledge of this era. That’s why it’s so much fun to build their background knowledge and watch how it enhances their comprehension as they read this historical fiction book. To this do, I use what I call “match-up” books.
Using match-up books has several advantages…
- Using match-up books encourages kids to read non-fictional material. With the advent of the Common Core standards, there’s been a huge push to get kids to read more non-fiction.
- Using match-up books enables kids to see the importance of activating their background knowledge when reading.
- Using match-up books is an easy, enjoyable way to help youngsters learn about a topic.
- When youngsters realize how much they have learned, it boosts their self-confidence and helps them to understand how reading can empower them.
Give it try with your kids this summer. Here’s how…
- Find a fictional book based on a subject that requires essential background information. Historical fiction or adventure stories set in unusual places often lend themselves to this.
- Search out informational books on the same topic in the children’s section of the library. You will want to choose short books, with plenty of pictures that will easily convey information.
- Before reading the books, talk with your child about what he already knows about the topic. For example, before reading Number the Stars, I brainstorm information with the kids and usually it’s obvious that there is a lot to learn.
- Introduce the information books. Read together or let your youngster read them independently but be sure that you discuss what he’s learned together so you can expand on his knowledge, clarify confusions and answer questions.
- Armed with adequate background knowledge, your youngster is ready to read and enjoy the fictional book.
- When he/she finishes the book, talk about all he/she learned to help your child appreciate the value of reading both non-fiction and fictional books.
Here are the “match-up” books I choose to use with Number the Stars. Look for more match-up possibilities in future posts and feel free to share your own. The bit of effort it takes to hunt down related books is small price to pay for the knowledge and motivation this strategy can offer your child.