In December 2017, I proposed a system for classifying children’s nonfiction that many writers and educators seem to find useful.* The 5 Kinds of Nonfiction divides the wide world of nonfiction into 5 distinct categories—active, browseable, traditional, expository literature, and narrative. Here are the main characteristics of each category:
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At nErDcampMI in July 2018, I did a presentation about the 5 Kinds of Nonfiction, and afterward, Terry Thompson, an editor at Stenhouse Publishing, invited me to write a book about it. I’m happy to announce that 5 Kinds of Nonfiction: Enriching Informational Reading and Writing Instruction with Children’s Books, co-authored with Marlene Correia—a professor of literacy education, is scheduled for publication in Fall 2020.
Initially, Marlene and I planned to feature a rich assortment of diverse books and diverse authors, especially BIPOC authors. But as we began searching for titles, we quickly realized just how difficult that would be.
Even though there has been an encouraging uptick in diverse fiction in recent years, nonfiction has lagged behind. In some cases, far, far, far behind. In fact, we couldn’t find any active or browseable books written by BIPOC authors.
That’s right, zero. Zilch. Nada.
We identified only three BIPOC authors who write traditional nonfiction, and only four who have written expository literature. These are heartbreaking statistics.
The slightly better news is that we identified about twenty BIPOC authors who have written narrative nonfiction (mostly picture book biographies). But even this isn’t enough. We need diverse nonfiction!
Because publishing houses are businesses, and businesses want to make money, one of the best ways to ensure that more books by BIPOC authors are published in the future is to buy (and ask our local libraries to buy) the few books that are currently available.
And so, today, I’m highlighting the seven BIPOC authors of traditional nonfiction and expository literature that we were able to identify. If you know of others, please leave their names in the comments, so people can make a point of buying their books too.
Baptiste Paul is the co-author with his wife, Miranda Paul, of Adventures to School: Real-Life Journeys of Students from Around the World, which describes some of the surprising ways children in different countries travel to school.
Anita Sanchez has written two fun, informative expository nonfiction titles for a middle-grade audience: Rotten! Vultures, Beetles, and Slime: Nature’s Decomposers and Itch! Everything You Didn’t Want to Know about What Makes You Scratch.
Traci Sorell makes skillful use of figurative language in her lyrical debut title, We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, which received the Sibert Medal Honor Award, the Orbis Pictus Honor Award, and the Boston Globe Horn Book Honor Award.
Traditional NonfictionChristine Taylor Butler has written dozens of wonderful expository nonfiction titles for elementary readers on topics ranging from amphibians and the moon to the Missouri River and the supreme court. (For any editors reading this, Christine would be the perfect choice for trade and mass market leveled reader series.)
Virginia Loh-Hagan specializes in writing high-interest expository nonfiction for middle-grade readers as well as professional books for educators. She is also a popular, high-energy professional development speaker.
Andrea Wang has written a half-dozen traditional nonfiction titles for the school and library market. More recently, she seems to have switched her focus to fiction and narrative nonfiction.
And finally, I’ll end this post with the names of some BIPOC authors who have written narrative nonfiction. Thanks to Alyson Beecher for her help in compiling this list, which we acknowledge is probably not complete. If you can think of additional names, please leave them in the comments.
*Initially, I was using a family tree as a visual model for the 5 Kinds of Nonfiction classification system, but as I thought more about it, I realized that analogy didn’t quite work.