Thanks to technology, the world is virtually at our fingertips. Global awareness has new meaning for the teachers. According to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, our students need to go beyond understanding global issues and be able to learn from and work with “individuals representing diverse cultures, religions and lifestyles in a spirit of mutual respect and open dialogue in personal, work and community contexts.” Using the “new and improved” nonfiction books on the market today is one way to get our students to this understanding.
Teachers and students are looking for a much broader perspective and the engaging capacity of nonfiction texts. Nonfiction, also known by the less negative moniker of informational text, has increased both in quantity and quality. The new nonfiction has become more reader-friendly with engaging prose, stunning high-quality photos and illustrations and an increased emphasis on accuracy. We, as educators, need to make these books available to our students as well as teach them strategies to read them. You can find some of these strategies on the Reading Rockets website, which features articles and resources to help you find and evaluate books appropriate for your students, as well as nonfiction-text reading strategies.
Another great resource for strategies and book recommendations comes from Primarysource.org. I attended a workshop hosted by Primary Source, and learned about the rich resources and opportunities for teaching understanding that can come from offering our students informational texts and primary sources.
For example, the DK UNICEF series Children Just Like Me by Barnabas Kindersley can start your children thinking about other cultures in a new way. Enhanced with beautiful photos of kids, their homes, schools and family life, the books underscore the basic needs and rights of all the world’s young people. Children will discover how their peers in other parts of the world live in a way that is engaging, visually appealing and without cultural bias. This series also has books that focus on education, celebrations, everyday life, etc. Although this series targets elementary school students, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone of any age who would not enjoy perusing the captivating stories on these pages. These books are readily available through any online bookstore. Primary Source is a site full of online resources, lesson plans and teaching strategies to help students read these informational texts.
Teaching our students to understand the basic needs and rights that we all have in common, as well as the diverse culture, religions and lifestyles of others, using the new and improved informational texts available is a great first step in making our children better global citizens. Global communication has put the world at their fingertips, it is up to us to prepare our students to work and play in their global world.
Wozniak is director of curriculum and technology and a former middle school robotics teacher in New Jersey.