Collection Development: Choosing Nonfiction

NonfictionWhile your teachers are working to teach students to distinguish nonfiction from fiction, to recognize nonfiction text features, and to comprehend nonfiction texts, you can support their efforts by purchasing quality nonfiction books. Specifically, you should buy excellent nonfiction books that you can use in lessons, not only to provide examples of nonfiction text features, but also to stimulate children’s interest in reading about our world.

Narrative nonfiction
Excellent nonfiction for younger children is quite often narrative nonfiction, telling a story to explain factual information. Examples would be the new Caldecott Medal winner, Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick, illustrated by Sophie Blackall or Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by Iacopo Bruno.

Descriptive nonfiction
Descriptive nonfiction books for children contain rich details and figurative language, centered on a factual explanation of an event or person. Steve Sheinkin’s Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War and Iron Rails, Iron Men, and the Race to Link the Nation: The Story of the Transcontinental Railroad by Martin W. Sandler are good examples of compelling language telling a factual story based on research.

Expository nonfiction
Expository nonfiction explains a topic with concise and clear facts. This is the most common type of nonfiction book for children and often contains all the nonfiction text features in one book. Many children’s science books would fit this category of nonfiction, such as The Octopus Scientists by Sy Montgomery and photographed by Keith Ellenbogen, or A Chicken Followed Me Home! Questions and Answers About a Familiar Fowl by Robin Page.

Persuasive nonfiction
Persuasive nonfiction is writing using facts to bring students over to a particular point of view. Can you teach them how to tell they are being persuaded? What clues are you asking them to look for? Book examples would be Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines by Paul Fleishman and Vegan Is Love: Having Heart and Taking Action by Ruby Roth.

How can you find excellent nonfiction?
Start by looking through the best lists from subject area associations such as the National Council for the Social Studies, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE.) Also, use the ALA/ALSC Notable Children’s Books and the YALSA Nonfiction Award lists.
Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12
NCTE Orbis Pictus Nonfiction Award
Notable Children’s Books
YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award

Read Professional Reviews
Find and read professional reviews of nonfiction. You may want to read some interesting nonfiction review and discussion blogs such as The Nonfiction Detectives and The Nonfiction Minute. But begin with the awards lists, because those are the cream that has risen to the top.

For all award lists and blogger suggestions, please read professional reviews, not just product reviews on merchandiser websites such as Amazon. This is easy enough to do if you keep your “want lists” on a school library vendor website because they usually link several professional reviews to every title. Your job will then be to eliminate those titles that may not be a good fit for your school or community. Reviews will help you to determine the fit. Your first priority must be to ensure that your collection matches the needs of your students and teachers.

Promote Nonfiction Reading
You should choose materials for purchase that you are willing and anxious to promote through your lessons, website, newsletters to parents, and your displays. Students must practice reading all types of nonfiction materials, and who better to give them suggestions than their school library media specialist?


Author: Karen Perry

Former school library media specialist. Reviewer. Online instructor for Old Dominion University and University of North Carolina at Greensboro in the school library program.

Categories: Blog Topics, Collection Development

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