Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Behind the Books: Narrative Nonfiction for Kids

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been discussing a great new nonfiction classification system developed by a group that calls themselves the Uncommon Corp. Look at last week’s post for more about two of those categories (Data and Expository). Today I’m going to focus on narrative nonfiction.
 
If you read this blog regularly, you know I’ve questioned whether narrative nonfiction really deserves all the attention and praise that has been lavished on it in the last few years. Sure, there are some great narrative nonfiction books being published, but based on what I hear from educators, I don’t think all kids connect with them.

I also think that because the “gatekeepers” have put so much focus on narrative books in recent years, some of the other great nonfiction titles being published haven’t received as much attention as they deserve. And I believe that does young analytical thinkers a disservice.

Narrative nonfiction began to pop up in adult books as early as the 1960s and 1970s. Some people cite Truman Capote's In Cold Blood as the first book in which a narrative arc was sustained throughout an entire nonfiction work.

The first evidence I’ve found of narrative nonfiction in children’s books dates to the late 1990s. The form slowly built steam during the 2000s, and in recent years, it’s been all the rage.

What I like about the new classification is that it names, and in so doing, legitimizes six other kids of nonfiction books for kids. It shows us all that kids (and authors) have lots of options. We should all explore those options and appreciate that they exist.
 
I hope that authors like Candace Flemming and Steve Sheinkin and Elizabeth Partridge continue to produce engaging true narratives for young readers, but I’m really excited that this new system recognizes other forms and invites readers and authors to branch out.

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