Matching informational texts and fiction texts is all the rage as educators work to figure out ways to support readers in deepening their understandings of text. The ways a pair of texts work together are a bit like a dance, and both partners have to bring complementary contributions to the interaction for the choreography to work. We see paired texts, whether across or within genres, as ideally working together like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
No matter what you call two (or more texts) that go together: complementary texts, text pairs, or connected texts, these related books can “dance” together in a few different ways.
Let students use a nonfiction text to prepare them to read a fiction text, or vice versa.
Use one text in one reading context and the other in another. For example, read one text aloud and use another during shared reading, or use one text in shared reading and another in small group instruction.
Use related texts on the same topic to do what we refer to as “reading up.” You can literally build a staircase of complexity for readers by giving them easier texts on a topic to read before they read the harder texts.
As you are looking for connected/paired/complementary texts, look carefully. Not all text pairs are created equal. More often than not, we are disappointed that the pairs of texts we receive for review have very superficial connections to each other. With the Common Core State Standards’ and the redirection towards increased informational reading, and with the trend in matching texts on the same topic or related topics, publishers are quickly laying out their books, as if playing a memory game, and looking for matches. Buyer BEWARE. We have seem some atrocious pairings of texts, with connections so superficial they are likely to provide more confusion than clarity.
For example, a science book about plants might have a narrative story where the main character walks through the woods, but the information in the nonfiction text doesn’t really deepen understanding of the narrative text at all (or vice versa). Another paired text review set we received had a fictional story about going to the moon that bordered on fantasy. It came with a “complementary” text about the moon. The connections between the two texts were so superficial, not to mention that the fiction title was simply bad (forgive us).
So, when looking for connected texts or text pairs, look for something like the pairings from Okapi (Flying Start to Literacy), most of which are linked with tightly connected ideas. For example, the information in the nonfiction title Monsoon Rain actually helps readers understand the storyline in The Wise Bird (both written by Kerrie Shanahan), which takes place as animals are trying to manage life during the dry season. These books are designed to work as complementary titles actually should, i.e. reading one text will enhance understanding of the other.
Teaser: Later this week, we take on Superman again as we address the inaccurate statements and contradictions we see in this article by Timothy Shanahan: http://www.aft.org/pdfs/americaneducator/fall2013/Shanahan.pdf