|Students in NewYork (left) and Illinois (right) |
taking part in #SibertSmackdown activities
After students decide that a book Delights them, they should take a closer look at the Design, which has three components.
An informational book should be organized to aid the reader in understanding the subject. This can mean breaking the text into chapters and subsections with guiding headings. It can also mean choosing a text structure that conveys the content in a clear and interesting way. Here are some questions that can help students think about organization:
—Does the book’s organization help you?
—Does the book start with familiar or basic information and then add new information?
—Is there a dramatic opening that shows you the relevance of the topic?
—Can you locate bits of information using a table of contents, headings, and an index?
Graphics play an important role in children’s nonfiction, often conveying or reinforcing content in critical ways. Here are some questions that can help students evaluate the visual elements that accompany the text:
—Are graphic images captioned and well placed near the text that they illustrate?
—When the illustrator chooses to use black & white, color, collage, photographs, or other styles, do these choices enhance the images and clarify the information being described? For example, sometimes black & white drawings are clearer than a photo with a distracting background (a drawn leaf vs. a photo of trees).
—Do illustrations avoid gender stereotypes and reflect a diverse society?
—Does the inclusion of features such as maps and diagrams support visual learners?
Like graphics, layout plays a significant role in nonfiction books for children. It is often complex and multi-faceted. Many informational books are rich in text features or include several layers of text, offering children multiple points of entry and ways of accessing the content. The following questions can help students as they consider a book’s layout:
—Is the layout confusing or distracting?
—If there is a “character” who guides the reader or makes commentary (often humorous), is this a fun way to maintain involvement with the book?
Melody Lloyd Allen is a retired librarian who worked in public libraries and schools, and for 30 years, as the state children’s services consultant in Rhode Island. She also taught at the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Rhode Island, the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College, and the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College. She served on the Caldecott Medal Committee twice and once on the Sibert Medal Committee.