Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Wait, that’s Not Broccoli. It’s Chocolate Cake! Part 4

For the last few weeks, I’ve shared academic articles with evidence that nonfiction in general and expository nonfiction in particular is more popular among elementary students than most of us might think. Simply put, what the children’s literature community calls broccoli, many kids call chocolate cake.
As I was plowing through academic articles and talking about them to anyone who would listen, Mary Ann Scheuer (@MaryAnnScheuer) and Christine Royce (@caroyce) both recommended that I take a look at the Scholastic Reading Report.

I didn’t find anything germane to my line of inquiry in the U.S. report, but the international surveys carried out in India, Australia, and  the U.K., included a question that gets right to the heart of what I’m interested in exploring.

“What do you look for when picking out a book to read for fun?”

I created a table to show the results:

I like books that:
Teach me something new
Tell a true story
Tell a made up story

Children could check more than one answer if they wanted to, which explains why the totals for India and Australia are greater than 100%.

In India, there was a clear preference for nonfiction, especially expository nonfiction. In Australia and the U.K., children preferred fiction, but not by much, and narrative nonfiction was the least favorite category. It’s interesting that the results in Australia and the U.K. were similar, while those in India were quite different. This suggests that cultural factors influence reading preferences.

Oh, how I wish they had asked this question on the U.S. and Canadian questionnaires. Maybe they will in the future.

Once again, I encourage you to examine this data yourself and take a look at the rest of the report too. It’s available at: .

I’ll be sharing more research next week.


  1. Melissa, I want to be sure I understand you. Are you saying that "Teach me something new" = Expository Nonfiction, "Tell a true story" = Narrative Nonfiction, and "Tell a made up story"= Fiction? Because that seems a bit of a simplification, no? I can think of a lot of narrative NF titles that I pick up to learn something new, even though it does, indeed, tell a true story.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Loree.

      Yes, I'm repeating the exact language used in the survey. I agree. It is simplistic. I think this is because some of the children involved were quite young.

      In the other studies I've cited in the last few weeks, the researchers were sharing physical books with the children, but that was not true in this case, so they were trying to come up with simple language to differentiate between the three categories of books.

      As a result, it's fair to say that these findings aren't necessarily as rigorous as the findings of the previous studies. I decided to include these results as part of this series because (1) they support the idea that children enjoy reading nonfiction, including expository nonfiction, more than many people might expect and (2) there appears to be a cultural component to these preferences. I find this second point particularly interesting, and it's a variable that wasn't evaluated in any of the other studies.

  2. I understand. Thanks, Melissa. I continue to be fascinated by the results you are sharing with all of us. Please keep up the great work.