Don’t let this picture fool you. This is a unusual snapshot of sweet calmness. Not typical. Do you also notice that Miss Ellie is not in the picture? No way is she going to sit next to these two. As Steve, Sarah, and I were watching the chaotic antics of Diva and Wrigs playing, Sarah commented that the two dogs were like peas and carrots. We all wondered how they could possibly ever get along without each other. Where one goes you will find the other close behind. Some things are just better together! Cookies and milk. Peanut butter and jelly. Cheese and crackers. So it is with nonfiction and fiction books. The pairing of these two genres deepen the depth of understanding which makes for a richer reading experience. Student engagement is also raised which causes a higher level of knowledge. It is a win-win scenario!
Here is just one example of peas and carrots for older readers to deepen understanding of a moment of history:
Pair these two books up: The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis and Birmingham Sunday by Larry Dane Brimner
One of the darkest moments in Civil Rights history was the Birmingham bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in 1963. Christopher Paul Curtis’s first novel, The Watsons Go to Brimingham-1963 chronicles this Sunday morning tragedy through the Watson family. This book was my first purchase minutes after listening to Christopher Paul Curtis tell his story and then read the first chapter at a conference I attended over a decade ago. All mothers will love Christopher as he tells his audiences, “Listen to your mothers. They are always right.” His mother had encouraged him to continue his education after high school but Christopher wanted to make money at the local auto factory. Father said, “Let him work.” The link above tells how that factory job led him to this first award-winning novel.
Larry Dane Brimner has meticulously researched FBI files, police surveillance records, and other resources to write Birmingham Sunday. Brimner was signing books at the 2010 NCTE conference in Orlando, Florida. One of the questions I asked him was how he chose his topics. The answer of course involved reading. The Civil Rights Movement is of high interest to this author. As he reads he will notice names and other references made in the footnotes. Those references will lead him to a book writing journey. This book is filled with photographs. The reader will feel that they are at the Sixteenth Baptist Church on this tragic day.
I also use F/NF pairs to create a basket to use during a NF study unit. Students are paired and are given a text pair. They then identify which text is NF and which one is F. Observations are written down on a T-chart. The class then gathers in the meeting area and we create an anchor chart of our observations. Over the next few days we investigate these questions: How do readers approach each of these genres? How do we read each differently? What is the same? What does an author do differently when writing NF? NF features and structures are explicity taught. The NF books are pulled again from the basket. Students then go on a scavenger hunt. Features are marked on a scavenger hunt sheet as students examine several NF text. I have found these learning experiences help cement fiction and nonfiction characteristics. I pair books of the same topic. For example a good pair would be The Pumpkin Circle and Too Many Pumpkins.
What great pairs of books have you put together?