Ann Angel and Her Reading Team
September 2020

As our Rais­ing Star Read­ers col­umn kicks off anoth­er school year, edu­ca­tors and care­givers both con­tin­ue to face the kind of chal­lenges few of us could have imag­ined last fall. Here, Ann Angel describes how her Read­ing Team is coun­ter­ing the “pan­dem­ic bub­ble” by adding non­fic­tion books to their list of favorite reads: 

Hey there, par­ent or grand­par­ent, raise your hand if you’re a pan­dem­ic teacher. I’m guess­ing many hands just went up. My hand is up, too, and I hear from many oth­er grand­par­ents that as the school year begins, we’re pro­vid­ing child­care and the class­room for tod­dlers, kinder­garten­ers, and even some grade school­ers. At least we know that although we may be iso­lat­ed in this pan­dem­ic, we’re in this togeth­er. 

While we hadn’t real­ly planned to be called into ser­vice this way, there are some amaz­ing upsides to edu­cat­ing our lit­tle ones. The best upside is that we get to sift through and share new books and authors with our kids and grand­kids. In my new role as Nana and teacher, I’m see­ing such a won­der­land of non­fic­tion books, and I’m learn­ing about the uni­verse along­side my lit­tle stu­dents. For instance, I now know that dia­dem snakes have wind­pipes that open into the bot­tom of their jaws so they can breathe and eat at the same time; an octo­pus has eight brains; and the earth’s inner core is made of sol­id iron, which grand­son Ted­dy always reminds me is also what Ironman’s suit is made of.

The Stuff of Stars and Soar High, DragonflyEnter­tain­ment, art, and edu­ca­tion are all com­bined in some of the best illus­trat­ed books I’ve come across. Mar­i­on Dane Bauer’s The Stuff of Stars is sure­ly the most beau­ti­ful weave of these ele­ments, with abstract illus­tra­tions by Ekua Holmes that allow a glimpse of nature made of star dust. You can make out the forms of hors­es, feet, birds, but­ter­flies, and a care­tak­er hug­ging a child. The first time I read this with my grand­son Ted­dy, he exclaimed at the explod­ing stars, “I’m begin­ning to love this book!” It has become a favorite, and Ted­dy and I enjoy find­ing new images every time we share it. He reads along with me, lov­ing the idea that before there was you, there was a uni­verse, and we’re all made of star dust. (Note: this book actu­al­ly inspired the name of this col­umn.)

Oth­er favorites that focus on a sin­gle ele­ment include Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move by JoAnn Ear­ly Mack­en and illus­trat­ed by Pam Paparone, a poet­ic per­spec­tive of the way seeds trav­el and implant across the land. Sheri Mabry Bestor has cap­tured details from the world of insects with Good Trick, Walk­ing Stick! and Soar High, Drag­on­fly!, both col­or­ful­ly illus­trat­ed by Jon­ny Lam­bert. Side­bars pro­vide addi­tion­al details about these insects and encour­age kids to dis­cov­er the tini­est crea­tures in our world.

With well over 100 pages of illus­trat­ed infor­ma­tion, the DK books from Pen­guin Ran­dom House pro­vide hours of fun for my younger grand­kids when we’re togeth­er in our pan­dem­ic bub­ble. Andrew, 6, Ted­dy, 4−1÷2, and Emma, 4, might not always have the patience to sit through lis­ten­ing to all of the text, but they do pick their favorite ani­mals, plan­ets, and explor­ers to share with one anoth­er. Two favorite books include the DK Smith­son­ian Did You Know? Amaz­ing Answers to the Ques­tions You Ask and My Ency­clo­pe­dia of Very Impor­tant Things. I’m guess­ing that, if they don’t grow up to become explor­ers, they could well end up envi­ron­men­tal­ists or zoo keep­ers or even actors, see­ing as part of read­ing always entails act­ing out every­thing from light­ning strikes to snakes breath­ing through their mouths.

Ann Angel's grandsons

And of course, kids can learn any­where, so we are also mak­ing the most of time out­doors. Why not take your books and your Read­ing Team out­side to enjoy the ear­ly fall weath­er?

There is such a wide vari­ety of non­fic­tion avail­able for all age lev­els. Feel free to leave your favorites in the com­ments below so we can all build our non­fic­tion libraries.   

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Bookol­o­gy is always look­ing for new Read­ing Teams to help us cel­e­brate the joys of read­ing aloud togeth­er. Con­tact Lisa Bullard for fur­ther infor­ma­tion if you’re inter­est­ed in par­tic­i­pat­ing.

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