Subscribe to SLJ
Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Giving nonfiction Rebus books from Benchmark

While I’m packing some beginning reader books for River Valley, I thought I’d share with you a set of books coming this spring. Marshall Cavendish Benchmark has two sets of rebus books for the K-1 reader – Creepy Critters and Weather Watch. Every K-1 classroom I’ve visited includes weather as part of their daily ritual and insects are always a popular spring topic.
The titles in this series use words and pictures to "support early literacy" and provide a successful reading experience. I’ve tried integrating rebus books with K-1 before but have found most of them overly complicated and frustrating for the students, so I approached these two sets with great hesitation. 
 Benchmark Rebus: Creepy Critters (Complete 6-book set) ISBN 9780761439592 S&L price $95.70
Benchmark Rebus: Weather Watch (Complete 6-book set) ISBN 9780761440093 S&L price $95.70

Designed for smaller hands, these 7" square titles have 24 pages and library bindings. You can see an example of the grasshopper page in the bottom left corner of the illustration. 

I was happy to see the Picture Word List of 7-9 words at the beginning of each book. I consider it a flaw to put the "key" to reading a story at the back instead of the front, so this earned a nod of approval with it’s up-front placement. 

I noticed immediately that the pictures of singular objects had one object to correspond with the singular noun and multiple objects illustrated plural nouns. Another good check. I’ve witnessed students attempting to read rebuses in other series where they have a singular object "+s" which means nothing to beginning readers. 

There are only 17 unique words in the title Sunny Days including:  the is out we can play ride on a sunny day eat pick chase blow fly climb

The words are combined in simple ways to encourage reading success with no more than 7 words in a sentence. Once again, well structured for K-1. The title Stormy Day had many three-word sentences throughout.

The two Words to Know in the back of Sunny Days were blow and climb. I thought they were odd choices and probably not as helpful as my list above of the 17 unique words. I believe the publishers included this glossary section because we librarians have always insisted nonfiction books have glossaries, TOC, indices, read more bibliographies, etc. In this case, I’d rather leave out the words to know or expand it to be a list of unique words in the book.

The Find Out More section includes books, dvds, and websites.  Just as I was going to make a comment on the need for sunscreen and protection in the book Sunny Days, the website at the back takes me to SunWise for Kids from the EPA with it’s recommendations on sun safety and trivia games on the sun. The website from NASA on the sun was at a more difficult reading level. It’s hard to find additional resources when a text is introducing a subject to 5 & 6 year olds, so I recognize adults will work with the readers to find more information. 
Nonfiction Monday
The book list included 3 good sun titles by Elaine Landau, Rebecca Olien, and Ralph Winrich that would provide information on a range of reading levels. (I included the link to the newest revision of Ralph Winrich’s book with its 2008 copyright instead of the 2005 listed in the book so be sure to order the newest titles above) 

Many of the illustrations in the Ants title were extremely well-chosen to illustrate the sentence concept including the photograph of 3 tiny ants struggling under a large nut. The facing text reads: Ants are small, but strong. 

The vocabulary words in the title Caterpillar were slightly more difficult, but very appropriate for the topic. While reading Grasshopper I realized I’d gotten smug and hadn’t checked my picture list first to be ready to read the words ferns vs. leaves. I loved the twist ending in the Grasshopper book (and, no, I’m not going to tell you. Go buy your own copy) 

I believe classroom teachers will want these sets in their rooms since students will be able to easily and quickly grasp the concept of reading these rebus titles. A good purchasing selection for early elementary classrooms and school libraries.

Be sure to check out Nonfiction Monday on Rasco From RIF today.