Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Beyond the 5 Kinds of Nonfiction: Blended Books, Part 3

For the last few weeks, I’ve been taking a close-up look at blended books—titles that feature characteristics of two or more categories in the 5 Kinds of Nonfiction classification system. This week I’m continuing that discussion by focusing on books that blur the line between narrative nonfiction and expository literature. 

Books with a narrative writing style tell a story or convey an experience. They include real characters, settings, and scenes. Books with an expository writing style explain, describe, or inform in a clear, accessible fashion. 

Nearly all narrative nonfiction includes expository bridges that transition from one scene to the next and provide necessary background information, but many expository literature titles are entirely exposition.

Books that blend narrative nonfiction and expository literature contain roughly equal amounts of expository and narrative text, with authors moving seamlessly from one writing style to the other. 

Why do I think these books important? Because they’re exactly what highly-regarded school librarian Jonathan Hunt had in mind when he coined the term “gateway nonfiction.” These books have something for everyone, AND they can help all children build critical reading skills.  
The expository sections of high-quality, high-interest blended books will captivate fact-loving kids. The clear explanations and descriptions will feel comfortable and familiar to them, giving these students the confidence and motivation to tackle the narrative sections. And once these info-kids learn to access and enjoy narrative text, they can discover how characters—both real and imagined—exist in the world and successfully overcome challenges.

Similarly, young narrative lovers will be drawn to the story-rich sections of blended books, inspiring them to do the work necessary to digest and comprehend the expository passages. As a result, they’ll be better equipped to wrangle the complex expository texts they’ll encounter in middle school, high school, and college, and in their future careers. 

And that brings me to what I think is one of the most important attributes of the 5 Kinds of Nonfiction classification system. When students understand the wide world of nonfiction books at their disposal, they can more easily identify the characteristics of blended nonfiction that match their natural reading preferences and learn to navigate the portions of the text outside their comfort zone. 

Approaching nonfiction in this way puts students in the driver’s seat. It helps them understand their reading strengths and challenges, and it encourages them to stretch and grow as readers.

For me, that’s the end game. It’s what I hope for all children . . . because before a child can become a
confident, lifelong reader, they must first be able to successfully interact with a broad range of fiction and nonfiction texts.

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


  1. And blended books are among my favorite to read :).

  2. I can't wait for our books and I know I write "blended." Ty, Melissa.