Back in 2017, I proposed a five-category system for classifying children’s nonfiction on my blog, and the response was incredible.
Teachers loved it. So did librarians and
children’s book authors and editors. People praised the clarity it brought to
the range of children’s nonfiction available today. In May 2018, School Library Journal published an article
about the 5 Kinds of Nonfiction. Again, the response was incredibly positive. I’ve
spoken about the system at a number of conferences, and later this year, 5 Kinds of Nonfiction: Enriching Reading and Writing with Children’s Books, co-written by literacy educator Marlene Correia, will hit bookshelves.
Because so many people want information now, for
text next five weeks, I’ll be discussing each of the categories and providing
an updated list of exemplar books. Today, we’ll start off with traditional
Not long ago, there was just one kind of nonfiction
for children—traditional survey
(all-about) books that provide a general overview of a topic. They feature a
description text structure, an expository writing style, and concise, straightforward
language. Thanks to the invention of desktop publishing software, these books,
which are often published in large series, are now more visually appealing than
they were in the past.
Traditional nonfiction is
ideal for the early stages of the research process, when students are “reading around”
a topic to find a focus for their report or project. The straightforward, age-appropriate
explanations make the information easy to digest, which is helpful to students
who are just beginning to learn how to synthesize and summarize information as
they take notes.
The other benefit of these books is that they provide age-appropriate information on almost any topic you can think of. Why is this so important?
Because the best way—sometimes the only way—to turn an info-kid into a reader
is by handing them a book on the exact topic they find fascinating.
A child who’s
passionate about monster trucks may toss aside a finely-crafted book about the
history of automobiles, but if you give that child a traditional nonfiction title
all about monster trucks, they’ll devour it and ask for more. When teachers and
librarians understand and respect all 5 Kinds of Nonfiction, they’re better
equipped to help a broad range of children find true texts they’ll love.
are some examples of traditional nonfiction:
About Birds by Cathryn Sills
Behind the Scenes Gymnastics by
Galaxies, Galaxies! by Gail Gibbons
Weather by Seymour Simon
Golden Retrievers by Sarah Frank
Monster Trucks by Matt Doeden
Powerful Forest Animals by Rebecca Hirsch
The Supreme Court by Christine Taylor Butler