Monday, September 9, 2019

Writing Expository Nonfiction that Sings, Part 1

Back at the end of 2017, I proposed a system for classifying nonfiction that many writers and educators seem to find useful. Initially, I was thinking of it as a family tree, but that analogy didn’t quite work, so now I just call it the 5 Kinds of Nonfiction.

This system divides the wide world of nonfiction into 5 categories—active, browseable, traditional, expository literature, and narrative. You can read more about it in an article I wrote for SLJ.

Even though many children’s book publishers are currently focused on narrative nonfiction—books that tell a true story or convey an experience, these books are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to great nonfiction for kids. In fact, four of the five categories in my classification system have an expository writing style. These books explain, describe, or inform.

Studies show that roughly 40 percent of elementary students prefer expository nonfiction, while another 30 percent enjoy expository and narrative writing (fiction and nonfiction) equally. Research also shows that about 40 percent of the books elementary students check out of the school library to read for pleasure are expository nonfiction.

Since expository nonfiction is the type of text students will be asked to write most frequently in school and in their future careers, it makes sense for educators, writers, and publishers to understand the key characteristics of finely-crafted expository writing and provide students with mentor texts that exemplify those traits.

That’s why, for the next few Mondays, I’ll be sharing posts with book recommendations and suggestions for teaching students to craft high-quality expository nonfiction—informational writing that sings.

As I’ve written here, to create finely-crafted nonfiction, it’s critically important to choose a focused topic. One of the best ways to do that is by starting with a question, so, next week, I’ll continue this blog series by discussing ways to help students formulate and keep track of questions.

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