In schools, it is quite common to distinguish between disciplines. For example, students have a math block which is separate from their reading block which is then separate from the science block, and on. When deciding which text to use during a lesson, educators make decisions about what text is appropriate for which students. Specifically looking at the English Language Learner population, often times these decisions result in choosing texts that limit student engagement and talk down to them. The book Planetarium written by Raman Prinja and illustrated by Chris Wormell, is a text that many would not consider to be useful to read with early to young readers.
This book is large in size, and is designed to be a portable museum that individuals can carry with them. The text of the content uses challenging and advanced vocabulary, which is why many would not use it for a mentor text with young readers. I agree that the text, introduced without the proper scaffolds, may present difficulties when young readers engage with it.
However, the illustrations of this book are where the strengths of it lie. As many in the education field argue, such as Lambert, the text of a book only composes a part of the reading experience. Other parts of the book such as illustrations, covers, end pages, and color schemes all contribute to the reading experience, and that is how Planetarium can be used as a text to engage young readers with concepts such as space and science, with artistic expressions, and reading literacy.
For example, with the illustration above of the entire universe, the teacher could stimulate conversations regarding what students are seeing. Potential topics for discussion can include: size, relativity, colors, detail, shape, space, and any other interpretation the reader may see.
An example of a young reader engaging with this text can be seen below.
This young reader has interpreted the images and expressed in writing what attracts his attention the most, and what specifically about them he likes. Children’s imagination will create the stories we want them to tell, all educators have to do is provide them with the opportunities. The young reader, whose writing is represented above, has made connections between these images of space and the universe with art and color. This is demonstrative of children’s sense making abilities, as they strive to connect and use what they know when approaching something unfamiliar.
Overall, Planetarium is a great text which can introduce young readers to concepts in science such as space and relativity. The size of the book, which is very large, engages the reader as they get a sense of immersion into the text and images. The illustrations are exquisitely detailed, which entrance and captivate the readers’ attention. Much discussion can be drawn out from this text, all that is needed now is to give the children the opportunity to engage with these complex texts.