16 April 2009

in favor of non-fiction

Because I tend to do most of my professional reading on-line--and more and more of it via Twitter, I might add--the corresponding print journals tend to pile up on my desk. So in an attempt to make some headway through those intimidating piles, I picked up a recent issue of Booklist (an April issue in fact, which is pretty good for me) and came across this article by Will Manley. First off, if you aren't a regular reader of Will Manley, you should make a point of becoming one--I liken him to Dave Barry for librarians. His connection with Booklist is only slightly longer than my library career, so I feel a kinship with him--that I have grown-up with him, if you......will (ha, ha.) But I digress.

Manley's article was about his recent discovery and joy in children's non-fiction. He goes on to highlight a particular series, but my main point is this--non-fiction needs more face time! As the mother of a reader who is partiularly keen on non-fiction, I get a sense of its worth on a regular basis. And, having recently reviewed a whole bunch of non-fiction series, I admittedly have NF on the brain. But one thing I have noticed is how audience savvy non-fiction books are becoming. They seem to understand that they can be beneficial not only for school reports, but also for hooking reluctant readers. You can do things in non-fiction books that you can't always do in fiction, like use exciting fonts and in-your-face photography, and cool layouts. And the best part is, it's all true stuff!

And while non-fiction has never gotten major literary props (although there is the Sibert Award) there are some real stars in the non-fiction world: Steve Jenkins, Gail Gibbons, Jim Arnosky, Seymour Simon, David Adler, Kathleen Krull, and many, many more. I also recommend checking out I.N.K. Interesting Non-Fiction for Kids, to read what some of these authors have to say for themselves.

Non-fiction--it's not just for homework!


ReadingTub said...

I do love that last line! It's amazing how many times we have to verbalize that nonfiction does not equal homework.

PS - Glad to have found you on Twitter.

Kara Schaff Dean, the Yankeerat said...

Thanks for your comment! I've been following your tweets for awhile :)

Sagey said...

Just followed the link to your blog from FB. I once contemplated becoming a librarian, how cool that you did!? :-) My 8 year old LOVES non-fiction, he devours it. It is tough to get him to read fiction, he is his father's child. :-)

Kara Schaff Dean, the Yankeerat said...

Thanks for the comment Sagey--and how good to know that the FB link works! May your 8 year old always have access to great non-fiction :)

Sagey said...

Yes, your FB link works. You had me intrigued with your last status update as to what you did for a living. So I investigated.

Recommendations for non-fiction? I think he has read every DK reader out there. I would love for him to get a hold of a narrative non-fiction. ;-)

Kara Schaff Dean, the Yankeerat said...

Good ole DK! I often recommend biographies, because "truth is stranger than fiction". There are some great biography series for elementary school readers. A current favorite with my daughter, who loves to read NF, is the "Who Was....?" series published by Penguin. They have eye-catching caricature-esque covers and are about the length of a Magic Treehouse chapter book. Also, if your young reader likes natural science, anything by Steve Jenkins or Jim Aronsky. They both write picture book format NF which should hold appeal for someone who likes the DK style of presentation.

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