We read all kinds of books in my library book groups, but until yesterday we had not yet read and discussed a nonfiction title. I’ve tried to convince the groups to let me try a nonfiction book, but the idea has always been promptly shut down.
I was very pleased, then, when this years’s 6th grade book group acquiesced and permitted me to thrust a nonfiction title upon them. They weren’t enthusiastic – they were skeptical – but they still said “yes.” And so yesterday we discussed Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 by Phillip Hoose.
I purposefully chose a book that I was excited to read, knowing that some of that excitement would help carry the group, but I also chose this book because it is absolutely fascinating and engaging. A species of shorebird that is suffering a rapidly decline, yet one individual bird of that species has thrived for twenty years or more? And flown from the tip of South America to the Arctic and back each year? Amazing. I LOVED this book: it’s one of the best books I’ve read in the last year.
Unfortunately, as I had predicted to myself, it didn’t go over so well with the book group. Of six group members, only three attended yesterday (one who couldn’t come most surely had read the book, though), and of those three, only one had actually read the whole book. One other had read four pages, and the third hadn’t read any of it. Fortunately, Phillip Hoose’s website has some great links to useful video and audio, so we watched (and heard) Hoose discuss why he wrote the book and read an excerpt from it. We also watched part of a great informative video by Parks Canada about the rufa red knot to bring everyone up to speed on the subject of the book. And the group member who had read it helped me discuss and explain the most interesting parts of the book to the other two sixth graders present.
All in all, not a failure, this first foray into having a nonfiction title to discuss in book group. Perhaps the secret might be to introduce nonfiction titles right at the beginning, with our youngest book group (the third graders) so that it doesn’t seem odd or unusual the way that it did to the sixth graders. I’ll keep trying, definitely, and I’m very glad to have had a reason to read this excellent book.
5 thoughts on “First foray”
Hang in there, Abby. You’ve picked a tough row to hoe. Your protagonist is not a human, not a dolphin, not a golden retriever. It’s this nondescript little creature that you overlook at the beach. But you’re right; B95 has a story worth telling and as a non-fiction writer, I really appreciate your work in helping me tell it.
Thank you for this fabulous book! I truly loved it – and am amazed by how much I learned (who knew horseshoe crabs are so fascinating, or that they play such a pivotal role in the ecosystem?).
And thanks for the encouragement to continue with reading nonfiction books with my book groups.
When I was teaching 5-8 Language Arts, there was a curricular emphasis on non-fiction reading. My kids loved loved loved The Great Fire by Jim Murphy, as well as (of course) Adrift and Lost on a Mountain in Maine. I haven’t seen B95, but on your recommendation, will check it out.
As another nonfiction writer, you have inspired me to go read this book. It sounds great. Nonfiction is a hard sell to college students too, for what it’s worth. You just have to keep at it, show them the good stuff, and eventually they cross over and never look back.
That sounds wonderful! Must read this book.
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