Back in October 2016, I wrote this short post because I noticed that a growing number of picture book “biographies” were including invented dialog, imagined scenes, or events presented out of chronological order. Why add these made-up elements? To improve the storytelling.
most part, the authors fully realized that these books should be classified as
fiction, and they liked the term “informational fiction” because it acknowledged
all the research they’d done and that the books were mostly faithful to the
facts. But the Library of Congress labelled these books “juvenile literature” (the
term they use for nonfiction). And in most cases, publishers and reviewers called
the books narrative nonfiction.
recently, I began noticing another kind of informational fiction. In an effort
to make survey
books that provide a broad overview of a subject more entertaining, authors were adding
made-up narrators, such as animals or inanimate objects, who were acting like storytellers.
Eventually, I discovered that, way back in 1984, researchers had developed the
to describe these books.
Once again, the Library of Congress calls these books
“juvenile literature,” and publishers and reviewers call them nonfiction. But the
term “nonfiction” doesn’t just mean a book has some documentable ideas
and information, it means nothing—not a single thing—is made up.
era of fake news, we’ve seen again and again that people trust what they see,
hear, and read too easily. They don’t check facts. They don’t question the
source of statistics. If we want that to change, we need to teach children to identify
truthiness. And one of the best ways to do that is by being transparent about
the books we offer them.
term “informational fiction” acknowledges that taking creative liberties with
true, verifiable facts can be an effective way to share ideas and information with
young readers while simultaneously emphasizing the importance of distinguishing
between what’s real and what’s not.
reinforce this idea, teachers and librarians should think carefully about where they
shelve informational fiction titles in their collections. Placing these books in
a separate section will help children recognize that while they’re mostly faithful
to the facts, they include some made-up parts.
knowledge will encourage students to think critically as they read. Perhaps they’ll
even skim the backmatter first to find out what’s made up and why the author
and/or illustrator made these choices. These are the kinds of skills we hope
all 21st-century learners will develop in school and use to evaluate
texts throughout their lives.