What child isn’t curious about their world? Books about nature and science are always popular with young readers and for librarians and teachers, there is an endless demand for books about bugs, birds, animals and our physical world. With the addition of CCSS, that demand is even higher. National Geographic has a relatively new leveled series that will make adults and young readers very happy. National Geographic Super Readers are available in five levels. All the books feature National Geographic’s trademark fabulous photography. The text is clear, often assisted by icons and full of fascinating information. The series uses correct terminology and vocabulary and understanding is aided by examples and descriptions that are well-suited to young readers. A Super Reader website provides access to posters, videos, badges, prizes, quizzes and games. And don’t miss Cindy’s interesting information about using this series with middle schoolers!
Lynn: The two levels designed for preschoolers are Pre-Readers and Explore My World, both series intended to be read to the child by an adult. High interest topics such as monkeys, butterflies, and frogs will quickly snare busy youngsters. A Vocabulary Tree is a feature of the Pre-Readers that will help young readers to begin to understand and categorize vocabulary. I tested several of these books with Henry, the youngest member of our focus group and he loved everything about them. Penguins, for example, opens with an irresistable picture of a baby penguin snuggled on a parent’s feet. The text explains that these penguins are as “tall-as-a-first-grader,” something a child can easily picture. A simple map and key conclude the book. And did I mention those fabulous photographs? These are books that a child will return to again and again, sometimes with an adult reader and often on their own.
Cindy: I have a Level 1 title Sea Otters and a Level 3 title Mars and both have attractive “creatures” on their covers and content that will appeal to their audience.
What does an otter say in an emergency? Kelp! Kelp!
Another feature, “What in the World,” will appeal to young readers, too. There are close up photos of sea otter life to be identified..answers appear on another page.
The Mars book has some similar features ratcheted up a notch for the more experienced reader and includes extras like “Weird but true” fact boxes: “Frozen carbon dioxide, or dry ice, forms frost and falls as snow on Mars!” An illustrated timeline of major Mars exploration events from 1964 to 2012 is helpful. A section on what astronauts might eat if they travel to Mars includes information about a 3-D printer that is in development that could make foods at the push of a button. The photos of a pizza being “printed” is sure to grab attention! A multiple choice quiz and an illustrated glossary wrap up the book.
As Lynn hinted, I’ve had some success with this series in my middle schools. We have a section in our collection for early readers that I have named “GRAB” books. It stands for Get Reading a Book and the signage encourages students to check them out for themselves or to read to a younger sibling. Our special education and English Language Learner classes use this section heavily but many students check them out to read to their siblings and the GRAB name, instead of “easy,” cuts down on the stigma of checking out these books. The nonfiction titles in this National Geographic series help even further as the books do not look “babyish.” Last year we used the Thomas Edison and Amelia Earhart titles from the Readers Bios series with our 6th grade scientist/inventor/explorer project. These titles were a big help to our ELL and low readers and I hope that series continues to expand. Elementary and public libraries will want all of these for sure, but middle school librarians should take note if your students have similar needs. These books can’t help but grow more Super Readers!