The discussion about the differences between nonfiction and informational text is continuing in the quest to understand the ramifications of the Common Core. I asked two children’s book authors to comment on the differences from their point of view. Here, Melissa Stewart, author of over 150 children’s nonfiction books, chimes in on the issue. Her first post on the issue is here, and this is the second post. Next week, look for a post from Alexis O’Neill.Guest post by Melissa Stewart
It turns out one post just wasn’t enough to address my ideas about confusion over the term “informational books.” So get ready for round two.
Here’s a question that begs an answer: Why would some people see a need to misappropriate the term “informational books” in an effort to define a subset of nonfiction books? Because they’re trying to make sense of the amazing, exciting, revolutionary changes that nonfiction for children has undergone in the last 10-15 years.
Once upon a time, most nonfiction books for children were lifeless assemblages of facts with a few scattered images decorating the pages. But that’s no longer true. In recent years, nonfiction has become more creative, more imaginative, and more visually dynamic than ever before.
The Changes to Nonfiction
Why has nonfiction changed so much? Because authors are experimenting. They’re innovating. They’re inventing exciting new ways of sharing ideas, information, and true stories with their young audience. And the results are, indeed, revolutionary.
So I agree. We do need new language to describe the various categories of nonfiction that are emerging. But to prevent confusion, we should avoid the misleading verbage. Let’s keep the terms “information” and “informational” out of the discussion.
To categorize the wonderful world of nonfiction, I’ve created a nonfiction family tree. You can see my tree in this recent post on my personal blog.When it comes to the Common Core definition of nonfiction, both of my categories (Just the Facts Nonfiction and Narrative Nonfiction) are wisely included. To gain a solid understanding the difference between these two categories, compare my book Frog or Toad? (just the facts nonfiction) to The Red Eyed Tree Frog (narrative nonficiton) by Joyce Crowley. Both books are engaging and accurate. Both are books kids will enjoy reading. But their approach to the information is strikingly different.
Some students will probably respond more strongly to my fact-filled book. Others will probably enjoy Crowley’s story more. By using them together, teachers can appeal to a broader range of kiddos, making for a whole classroom of stronger readers, stronger writers, and stronger learners.
That’s what Common Core is all about. And that’s what today’s nonfiction is all about. This synergy is why I’m so excited about all the possibilities the new standards will offer students and for educators.