High Interest Non-Fiction to Interest Disabled Readers
This is the second set of books I have reviewed from Bearport Press. Those of us who work with disabled readers know the difficulty of finding engaging high interest books that are age appropriate. Most of the students at the middle school where I teach are two years below grade level in reading. Our disabled readers are even more behind.
Once again, I turned the books over to a class of sixth graders in a resource English class. Once again, enthusiastic support. The students wrote comments on sticky notes on the covers, and there was a lot of enthusiasm for the titles about animals.
Teachers will also be fans, as Bearport fills them chock-a-block with non-fiction "features" also called "elements of non-fiction (Pennsylvania.) The Common Core State Standard "Integration of Knowledge and Ideas" for 5th grade "Identify basic similarities in and differences between two texts on the same topic (e.g., in illustrations, descriptions, or procedures)" will continue to call on knowledge of these text features: Table of Contents, illustrations, captions, maps, glossary, index and charts. All of the Bearport books have some or all of these elements, and provide practice in reading and using those features to better understand the text.
A Broad Range of Topics for a Range of Interests
Bright photographs, colorful design and graphics and topics meant to interest tweens and young teens make these titles attractive for challenged readers.
Many of the titles that drew the interest of my young reviewers were from the series about animals. Books from the series "Little Dogs Rock II," "Animals with Super Powers," "Wild Baby Animals" and "Blink of an Eye Superfast Animals" all earned "cool" and many also"cute" from my young reviewers. The last two are rated by Bearport as grade 2, and provide pictures in their glossaries, providing extra ways for struggling readers to succeed. The others are rated at grade 3 and have denser print on the pages, but are still accessible to disabled readers. Even the easier of the books use charts, tables and maps to help explain their topic, familiarizing disabled readers with these text features.
The other series topics are those that would be most likely to interest young male readers: "Becoming a Soldier," "Fast Rides," "Football-O-Rama,""Horror Scapes","Nightmare Plagues" and "Up Close and Gross." Some of the titles are rated as fourth grade, but most likely because they contain topic specific vocabulary, like accelerate in Hot Hot Rods ("Fast Rides.") In order to help readers with new vocabulary, the challenging words are presented in bold type and appear in the glossary with pronunciation keys.
These are bright, engaging books pitched to middle school students. They provide lots of practice in using the elements of non-fiction to interpret texts and read for information. My one reservation is I want desperately to keep these out of the hands of elementary school librarians. These same topics would be very attractive to young boys with strong reading skills, and they would quickly become hot properties in the elementary library. Disabled readers would shun them because they would retain the onus of being "kids books." If kept for a disabled reading population, they would be special books with their own cachet among disabled readers.