“Children’s literature should be the reading program we organize for our students.”
-Yetta Goodman

The beginning of a New Year is the perfect time to reflect on many things as an educator, not the least of which is the very foundation of the reading program….the texts that children have access to throughout the school day. Teachers and students look forward to the highly coveted daily read aloud – a time where quality, authentic titles across many genres, topics, and authors/illustrators are enjoyed together. This social space is not only a time to grow as a community of readers and promote comprehension and the love of reading, but it is also an opportunity for teachers to demonstrate strategic reading behaviors, conduct mental modeling, and support children in making connections across the curriculum.  

Unfortunately, the same plentiful and appealing text offerings and literacy learning experiences are not always readily available to children during other reading workshop structures (i.e., shared reading, guided reading, independent reading, and literature circles). If basal anthologies and decodable texts have crowded out the number of reading experiences students have with authentic texts in your classroom, perhaps the following reminders and research-based tips will help you be more intentional about getting children’s literature into the hands of students and igniting a renewed passion for reading! 

What Are Authentic Texts?

  • Texts that reflect the print and non-print materials that occur naturally in the lives of students outside of school classrooms (Nuan, 1988)
  • Texts by authors/illustrators for the purpose of communicating meaning to the reader rather than for language-teaching purposes (Purcell-Gates, 2001)
  • An entire piece of writing (not an abbreviated form)

What Does Authentic Reading Include?

  • Reading experiences that are relevant, useful, and meaningful
  • Choice of text selection across a wide array of genres, topics, and authors
  • Sufficient time to read texts daily from both the efferent stance (literal - obtaining information) and the aesthetic stance (emotional - engaged in the reading experience, itself)
  • Opportunities to respond to text and share with others in response to text

Why Is Reading Authentic Texts A Great Idea? 

  • Choice of reading materials increases motivation and comprehension
  • Authentic texts on one topic, author, genre, etc. increases background knowledge and enhances comprehension (narrow reading)
  • Readers gain autonomy and self-efficacy when they read authentic texts they can and want to read (this is the perfect “text level”)
  • Emotional involvement of reader positively impacts comprehension
  • Readers read more often and read for longer blocks of time when they are interested in the content of the text

Choice of authentic texts + time to read = enhanced comprehension and love of reading

Authentic Texts:  A Few Ideas to Get Started

  Picture Books   Graphic Novels and Comic Strips
  Poetry   Song Lyrics
  Reader's Theater Scripts   Online Periodicals for Children
  Magazines for Children   Cookbooks
  How to Guides   Wordless Books
  Travel Brochures   Atlas, Almanac, and Encyclopedia
  Letters, Notes, Emails, and Texts   Biographies and Autobiographies
  Signs and Labels   Junior Novels
Award Winners of All Kinds - Informational and Narrative

Guest Post by Debbie Linville
Dr. Linville has been teaching for over 30 years and her passion is enabling educators to promote the proficient, joyful reading and writing lives of children.