Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Beyond the 5 Kinds of Nonfiction: Blended Books, Part 1

Over the past few years, dozens of teachers and librarians have worked with students to sort books using the 5 Kinds of Nonfiction classification system. 

Again and again, they’ve reported that students are excited to think about nonfiction in this way. Children as young as 7 were able to sort books effectively, and most students could easily identify a favorite category. Here are some of their comments:

I like active nonfiction because . . .

“it teaches you to do the things you want to do.” —Gina, fourth grader

“you get to do things while you read. That makes me feel calmer.” —Jack, fourth grader

I like browseable books because . . .

 “you have a lot of choices about how you read. It’s like the potluck dinners at my church.” —Matthew, fourth grader

“I can learn a ton of new, and sometimes crazy, facts. I like to learn new facts so I can share them with family and friends.” Clara, fourth grader

I like expository literature because . . .

“it has facts plus it can make you think about something in a new way.” —Rowan, fourth grader

“it can surprise you. And sometimes it’s like playing a game.” —Ryan, fourth grader

I like narrative nonfiction because . . .

“it has characters and a story that is a real situation! It is like I Survived and other fiction books.”
Miles, second grader

“I’m not a nonfiction type, so it really helps me learn more without having to read constant facts.” Flynn, fourth grader

But one student comment in particular blew us away:

“I think you should add an ‘oddball’ category. It’s for books that are a mix of two or more categories.”  —Austin, fourth grader

Austin is right. While most nonfiction children’s books fit snugly into one specific category, some titles are outliers that feature characteristics of two or more categories. For the next few weeks, I’m going to take a close up look at these “blended books.”

For example, books in the National Geographic Readers series blur the line between browseable nonfiction and traditional nonfiction. 

These titles feature a colorful, eye-catching design with plenty of photos and other text features (browseable), but the main text extends over many spreads, which makes them most appropriate for reading section by section or from cover to cover (traditional). I’ve written thirteen books in this series, and I can tell you from firsthand experience at school visits that kids love them.

For more information about this kind of blended nonfiction, be on the look out for 5 Kinds of Nonfiction: Enriching Reading and Writing with Children’s Books, coming soon from Stenhouse Publishing. 

Next week, we’ll look at books with characteristics of both browsable books and expository literature. Stay tuned. 


  1. Thank you for this! I’m a new librarian and this is a great library lesson.

    1. So glad it's helpful! More info to come text week.

  2. Love it when you filed test the types by those who read it and you get answers like this. Smart kids. TY, Melissa.

  3. Thank you for letting us know about "5 Kinds of Nonfiction: Enriching Reading and Writing with Children's Books" from Stenhouse Pub. coming out this fall. Looks like a very interesting read.

  4. Love this--and can't wait for your book, Melissa. Giving teachers and writers a vocabulary to discuss nonfiction with is incredibly helpful!