Paired Texts: Teaching Fiction and Nonfiction Books to Kids
Common Core State Standards place a heavy emphasis on teaching genres, and especially on the differences between fiction and nonfiction books. Using paired fiction and nonfiction texts—fiction and nonfiction books with the same topic—is one very effective approach to teaching fiction and nonfiction, and the differences between the two.
Compared to fiction, nonfiction books have a totally different set of features, and it's important for Common Core informational text standards that students be able to recognize them and point them out. Choosing paired texts in which the nonfiction book is heavy in informational text features is the best way to point out differences here.
We have a couple of series that fulfill these criteria. For fiction vs. nonfiction 1st grade level readers can enjoy, there is Fables & the Real World. For fiction vs. nonfiction for kids reading at a 2nd grade level, we have Story World Real World. Both series pair a traditional tale, either a fairy tale or a fable, with three informational texts that relate to the fiction story. The fiction books have classic fiction characteristics: illustrations, a plot, and characters. The informational text books have a table of contents, an index, a glossary, and other features such as headings, captions, and diagrams.
For kindergarten, there is less focus on the text features. Informational books for kindergarten benefit from having photos so that students can compare them with illustrations in fiction books. Our Zoozoo Into the Wild series contains fiction and nonfiction texts at kindergarten reading level, as well as wordless books that can be used for oral language. Each thematic set is based on one zoo animal, and there is a fiction book, a nonfiction book, and a wordless book on that animal.
Paired texts are a great way to get students used to genre differences while sharing stories and content-area material with them. The more paired texts they are exposed to, the keener their sense of these differences will become!