Friday, April 27, 2018

Classifying Nonfiction: The Continuum Approach

Back in December, I introduced and described what I call The Nonfiction Family Tree.
I received such a great response that I discussed it again (and provided a list of sample books) in early January. Then I suggested an activity for introducing it to students later in the month. Since then, many educators have tried the activity with students and provided me with feedback. Thank you! And SLJ published this article, which brought together all my thinking on this topic. I love the groovy graphic Mark Tuchman created!

In biology, classification helps us (1) make sense of the diversity of life and (2) understand how living things are related to one another. Classifying nonfiction has similar benefits. It helps readers understand the kind of information they’re likely to find in a particular book, how that information will be presented, and how they can access it. It can also help a reader identify the kind(s) of nonfiction he/she enjoys reading the most.

While most children’s nonfiction books fit snugly in one of the five categories, some are blended titles that have characteristics of two adjacent categories.

For example, as I discussed here, many books (even fiction books) include a combination of expository and narrative text. While one writing style usually dominates, there are some books that contain roughly equal amounts of each.
 
Similarly, the line between expository literature and traditional nonfiction can sometimes be blurry. There are also books that have some browse-able traits and some traditional traits.

So while each of the five categories has a distinct origin story, which may be interesting to those of us who have watched the growth and evolution of nonfiction over the last couple of decades, in practice, it may be more useful to think of them as points on a continuum, with each category gradually blending into the next like the colors in a rainbow.
It seems to me that this sort of visual model more accurately represents the diversity of nonfiction available today and how the various types are related to one another. What do you think?

5 comments:

  1. I think you continue to do the Kidlit community a great service. Love this!

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    1. Thanks, Joanne. I'm so glad that people are finding these posts useful.

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  2. The visual model is perfect and so useful for the classroom. Just yesterday, my Kindergarten class was sorting through our frog books before beginning a small research project related to our vernal pool study. There were several books which straddled genres in their minds, and I look forward to sharing this graphic with them. We can use it as our model.

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    1. That's great! I hadn't thought of using it with students as young as K. I hope they find it helpful.

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  3. I'm a fan of this blending. It's easier for me to think about, and easier to share with kids. Thank you!

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