First, know this: Georgia Heard and Jennifer McDonough don’t write in the world of the hypotheticals. Every idea they share for helping children make nonfiction discoveries comes from their real-life experiences with kindergartners and first graders. Every lesson plan has been implemented in “real time,” and it shows through the anecdotal stories, the authentic and very funny student dialogues, and their suggestions for practitioners based upon their experiences.
This isn’t another book of themes or centers; this is an easy-to-implement series of lessons which will assist any teacher, in any school environment, in opening the eyes of curiosity. And while some will argue that children are naturally curious, I would point out that schools have a way of stifling that curiosity. Not purposely, not systemically, but simply through neglect. A Place for Wonder shows how to take that natural curiosity and channel it toward authentic and purposeful explorations of nonfiction topics. What particularly impressed me was the plans for children to write their own nonfiction books, complete with table of contents and glossary!
Far more important than readability is interest. When students have strong
interest in what they read, they can frequently transcend their so-called
reading level. Indeed, many educators and researchers consider interest to be a
paramount factor in all learning.
So what’s the point? The point is, younger children can benefit in many ways from nonfiction texts that are above their reading levels. Like me, they can piece together, sort out, and through collaborative efforts. make some sense of what they’re reading, especially if they’re reading with self-determined purposes.
A book like The Frog Scientist, then, which illustrates its points with clear, objective photographs, is perfect for young readers seeking information on a topic of chosen interest. In addition to providing facts about our amphibious friends, Pamela S. Turner captures the scientific attitudes and habits required to conduct meaningful work. Such life and vocational skills are a huge part of the much-touted 21st Century Skills, which makes this book even more important.
The Frog Scientist was recently awarded the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)/Subaru SB&F middle-grade science writing prize. The book trailer below features biologist Tyrone Hayes (aka The Frog Scientist).