My district’s curriculum plays favorites- fiction is favored. Most of my units of study revolve around understanding plot and setting, characters and theme. Yet many students self-select nonfiction books when given the opportunity to book shop. Still, when I think about the read alouds I select for my class, I would estimate 80 percent of my choices are fiction. If students love and enjoy nonfiction, can I do more to provide experiences with all types of nonfiction through independent reading and class read alouds? After reading 5 Kinds of Nonfiction, I know the answer is YES! and that it is something I need to actively and intentionally work on this year.
(WARNING: Reading 5 Kinds of Nonfiction will greatly expand your TBR list (TBR=”To be read”) and probably cost you some money as you will want to add so many fabulous nonfiction titles to your classroom library. Proceed with caution. )
The book opens with an overview of what nonfiction is with some history of how the term came into play. Two nonfiction writing styles are identified: expository nonfiction and narrative nonfiction. Stewart and Correia explain, “Narrative nonfiction appeals strongly to fiction lovers because it includes real characters, and settings, scenes, and ideally, a narrative arc with rising tension, a climax and a resolution”(6). They also clarify, “Expository nonfiction shares ideas and information in a more direct, straightforward way”(6). Most chapters includes an activity or more for teachers to try with students. The activities can be adapted to different grade levels and include suggestions for nonfiction picture books to use with the lesson.
Chapter 2 focuses on the 5 Kinds of Nonfiction classification, created by Melissa Stewart. The 5 Kinds of Nonfiction include active, browseable, traditional, expository literature and narrative. Each type is described in depth with recommended nonfiction picture books for each category.
I found Chapter 3 to be very fascinating. It is all about why students need access to a wide array of nonfiction. A case is made that most teachers and librarians have a narrative preference and often only share narrative nonfiction books. Yet, most students who were surveyed preferred expository nonfiction. This paragraph really struck me:
“Based on her experiences with young analytical thinkers, Melissa became concerned that the reading preferences of these students- the scientists, engineers, mathematicians, accountants, computer programmers, electricians, and plumbers of the future- were being undervalued, or even ignored, by educators” (27).
Reflecting on my own practices, I knew this to be true for me. I love stories. As Kate DiCamillo writes in The Tale of Desperaux, “Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark.” However, this chapter made me see that not every student feels the way I do about stories. According to the research Melissa did, 42% of students prefer expository books.
Chapter 4 is entitled, “How Understanding the 5 Kinds of Nonfiction Helps Readers and Writers.” There are two activities to try with students to help them learn about the 5 kinds of nonfiction. The chapter also includes a chart I loved which identifies the best type of nonfiction category for a student’s purpose. For example, if a student wanted to learn a new skill, active nonfiction is suggested. If a student wanted to share a fascinating fact with a friend, browseable nonfiction is the recommendation. Another fabulous chart in this chapter organizes craft moves with the best kind of nonfiction to teach it and the reason why. For example, a carefully chosen text structure would best be shown through expository literature.
Chapters 5-7 include lessons for teaching specific aspects of nonfiction. Chapter 5 is about exploring text patterns, Chapter 6 focuses on text structures, and Chapter 7 describes voice, language and point of view. Each of these chapters include photographs of children’s work, book recommendations, and lessons and activities to try with students. These chapters are full of lessons for reading and writing and I am excited to try them out this year with my third grade students.
Chapter 8 is all about ways to build book love for nonfiction. This was one of my favorite chapters! There are so many fun ideas to build interest and excitement around nonfiction. I especially liked the idea of the Nonfiction Smackdown, where students read two nonfiction books on the same topic.
The last chapter of the book, Chapter 9, details what “blended nonfiction” is as well as “gateway nonfiction.” The authors explain that knowing the 5 Kinds of Nonfiction helps students have ownership and “puts students in the driver’s seat” (144). They write: “It helps them understand their reading strengths and challenges, and it encourages them to stretch and grow as readers…That’s our end game. It’s what we hope for all children…because before a child can become a confident, lifelong reader, they must first be able to successfully interact with a broad range of fiction and nonfiction texts” (144).
5 Kinds of Nonfiction also includes an extensive Appendix and Bibliography of Children’s books. (Remember that warning I gave before? Be especially wary of this section!)
I learned so much from reading 5 Kinds of Nonfiction. The authors descriptions of each type of nonfiction with examples of children’s picture books really helped me understand the classification. I am more aware of how I favor narrative nonfiction and will look for ways to balance out my read alouds and book talks with more expository choices. The lessons and activities all align with my views of immersing children in real books and real purposes for writing. I highly recommend 5 Kinds of Nonfiction for educators who want to dive deeper into the world of nonfiction and present more options and possibilities for students.
Many thanks to Melissa Stewart for donating one copy of 5 Kinds of Nonfiction: Enriching Reading and Writing Instruction with Children’s Books.
For a chance to win a copy of 5 Kinds of Nonfiction, please leave a comment on this blog post by Thursday, September 2nd by 11:59 PM (EDT). I will use a random number generator to select a winner. It will be announced in the comments of this post by Saturday, September 4th.
Please leave a valid email address when you post your comment so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address. Only mailing addresses in the continental US are eligible for this giveaway.
If you are the winner of this book, I will email you with the subject line of- TWO WRITING TEACHERS- 5 KINDS OF NONFICTION. Please respond to the email within 5 business days. A new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within 5 days of the announcement.