New Resources for Teaching Nonfiction by Melissa Stewart

In July, I was lucky enough to attend nErDcampMI for the very first time. And all I can say is WowOhWowOhWowOhWow!

I met so many dedicated educators and had so many great conversations that sometimes it felt like my brain was about to explode—in a good way. I’d been connected with many of these folks for years on Twitter, but there’s nothing quite like meeting face to face. I really can’t thank New England peeps Lesley Burnap, Melissa Guerette, Sarah Albee, Josh Funk, and honorary New Englander Erika Victor enough for showing me the ropes.

Since some of you weren’t able to travel to Parma for nErDcampMI, I thought I’d share a few highlights of my presentation 5 Kinds of Nonfiction: Rethinking Your Classroom Library here. For even more information, check out this blog post.

According to the fun Human Opinion-meter survey I did during my presentation, most attendees prefer to read books with a narrative writing style. These results don’t surprise me. Educators who are passionate about literacy tend to connect deeply with stories and storytelling.

More evidence of that comes from an analysis of American Library Association’s Youth Media Award winners since 2001 (when the Sibert Award for Informational Books was first given).

But it turns out that kids don’t necessarily feel the same way, and there is a growing body of research to prove it.

Many students connect more strongly to books with an expository writing style, and they’re most likely to develop a love of reading if they have access to fact-filled books with clear main ideas and supporting details, intriguing patterns, analogies, concepts, and calculations. These children read with a purpose. They want to understand the world and how it works and their place in it. They want to understand the past and the present, so they can envision the future stretching out before them.

And so the question we need to ask ourselves at this point is: Now that we know better, how can we do better?

To help educators answer this question, I worked with Marlene Correia, director of curriculum and assessment for the Freetown-Lakeville Regional School District of Lakeville, MA, and past-president of the Massachusetts Reading Association, to create a rack card handout. (A rack card is sort of like a bookmark, but bigger. 4” x 9” inches to be exact.) I passed it out at nErDcampMI and the response was so positive, that I thought you might like to see it too.

There are two sides. One side lists 5 Reasons to Share Expository Nonfiction with Students.

And the other side highlights 5 Ways to Share Expository Nonfiction with Students.

All of the information is supported by research, including the work of Donalyn Miller, co-founder of the Nerdy Book Club. Full citations for all the studies listed on the rack card are available on my website.

If these infographics leave you wanting more information, I have good news. Throughout the fall, Marlene and I will be discussing these ideas in detail on my blog. We’ll also be sharing strategies for incorporating finely-crafted expository nonfiction children’s books into your curriculum. We hope you’ll check out these posts.

Melissa Stewart is the award-winning author of more than 180 nonfiction books for children, including Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs; Can an Aardvark Bark?; No Monkeys, No Chocolate; and Feathers: Not Just for Flying. Her highly-regarded website features a rich array of educational resources for teaching nonfiction reading and writing. Twitter: @mstewartscience