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How To Choose Books for Instruction and Focus on Learning

One common question we are asked is, "How do I choose a book to use for instruction?" This question is so common because we know how important it is to find a book that students will enjoy and also learn from. But, there are no magic books or right or wrong books for teaching a reading strategy. Think of it this way, when you are teaching students a strategy for understanding characters, you must have a book with characters, but the rest is up to you knowing your students well and what you think they will connect with. This is because if a strategy only works with this one perfect book, it is not going to help student readers transfer their learning to other books.

We recently learned about Shirley Clarke's (2008) research on how to separate learning from context. Learning is what the students will be able to do and know and context is the activity that helps students learn. When teaching reading, the specific book is the context and the strategy is the learning. The context is important for engaging students but cannot be confused with the goal. The goal is learning. So when we focus too much on teaching the book we might be missing the learning that can transfer. We adapted Clarke's chart and made our own below.

In our new books we created a Zagat style guide for deciding which books to use with students during reading instruction. Here is a sneak peek at the nonfiction rating guide. We review each book on its appeal, organization of information, content, and accessibility to readers.

Here are a few of our favorite nonfiction read aloud books.

In our What Do I Teach Readers Tomorrow? series we include a whole chapter of our favorite books, annotated pages with lesson ideas, and an extended book list in the appendix. We would love to hear what your favorite books for instruction are. Please share your favorites here.

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