Monday, June 11, 2018

5 Faves: And That’s a Wrap!

Throughout this school year, thirty-three smart, dedicated educators—classroom teachers, school librarians, public librarians, reading specialists, literacy coordinators, and more—have contributed lists of their 5 favorite expository nonfiction titles to this Monday strand of my blog. Thank you! I know how busy all of you are, and I really appreciate the time you devoted to this project.

Way back in September, I had just one goal in mind—to raise awareness of the wonderful expository nonfiction books being published today. Sure, I have my favorites, but just like anyone else, I have reading gaps, so I wanted to include a wide variety of voices.

Mission accomplished! I’ve spoken to dozens of educators who are referring to these lists as they buy new books for their collections.

But along the way, I also made five important discoveries.

First, the lists weren't as diverse as I expected. Many titles were listed over and over again. What does that mean? We need more great expository nonfiction titles to be published!

Second, in general, the books that showed up multiple times were published recently. They got a lot of love from kidlit bloggers, but not from the major review journals. I'd like us to consider what accounts for that discrepancy.

Third, the majority of titles listed were STEM-themed picture books. There are very few MG and YA expository titles being published, and there are almost no finely-crafted expository books about social studies topics. We need to change this.

Fourth, even though everyone who contributed a list is an experienced educator with an above-average knowledge of children’s literature, many had trouble distinguishing between expository and narrative titles. Imagine how challenging it must be for teachers with less knowledge and experience. This realization is one of the reasons I developed the Nonfiction Family Tree.

Because so many people found it valuable, I later developed these slides, which summarize the major characteristics of each category. They're great for educators as well as students.

Fifth, many of the lists ended up including some blended titles—books that feature roughly equal amounts of narrative and expository text. I think there are two reasons for this.
(1) We need more great expository titles to be published.
(2) I suspect that most contributors have a natural affinity for a narrative writing style (which is why they chose jobs related to books and reading). As a result, they gravitate toward books that include narrative as well as expository writing. It’s important for us to remember that there’s a growing body of research indicating that many elementary students prefer expository text. We need to make sure that book collections include the kinds of books that will make all children fall in love with reading.

While this 5 Fave strand is coming to an end, my thinking about nonfiction in general, and expository nonfiction in particular, will continue. I hope to have more helpful posts starting in September. Have a great summer!

Friday, June 8, 2018

40 STEM Summer Reads to Encourage Outdoor Exploration

It’s not quite summer vacation here in Massachusetts, but I know that many kids across the country are already done with school for the year. Here are some great books that they might enjoy reading over the next couple of months.

Beneath the Sun by Melisa Stewart and Constance R. Bergum

A Butterfly Is Patient by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long

Coyote Moon by Maria Gianferrari and Bagram Ibatoulline

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

Daylight Starlight Wildlife by Wendell Minor

Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move by JoAnn Early Macken and Pam Paparone

Frog Song by Brenda Z. Guiberson and Ginnady Spirin
Grand Canyon by Jason Chin

A Grand Old Tree by Mary Newell DePalma

The Hidden Life of a Toad by Doug Wechsler
A House in the Sky and Other Uncommon Animal Homes by Steve Jenkins and Robbin Gourley
If You Find a Rock by Peggy Christian and Barbara Hirsch Lember

If You Were the Moon by Laura Purdie Salas and Jaime Kim

I Took a Walk by Henry Cole

Just Ducks by Nicola Davies and Salvatore Rubbino

A Leaf Can Be by Laura Purdie Salas and Violeta Dabija

Mama Built a Little Nest by Jennifer Ward and Steve Jenkins

Mama Dug a Little Den by Jennifer Ward and Steve Jenkins

Many: The Diversity of Life on Earth by Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton

My First Day by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

On Meadowview Street by Henry Cole
Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies and Mark Hearld

Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner and Chris Silas Neal

A Place to Start a Family by David L. Harrison and Giles LaRoche
Planting the Wild Garden by Kathryn O. Galbraith and Wendy Anderson Halperin

The Promise by Nicola Davies and Laura Carlin

The Raft by Jim LaMarche

Raindrops Roll by April Pulley Sayre

A Rock Can Be by Laura Purdie Salas and Violeta Dabija

A Rock Is a Lively by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long

The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer and Lou Fancher
A Seed Is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long

A Seed Is the Start by Melissa Stewart

Warbler Wave by April Pulley Sayre