Throughout this school year, thirty-three smart, dedicated educators—classroom teachers, school librarians, public librarians, reading specialists, literacy coordinators, and more—have contributed lists of their 5 favorite expository nonfiction titles to this Monday strand of my blog. Thank you! I know how busy all of you are, and I really appreciate the time you devoted to this project. Way back in September, I had just one goal in mind—to raise awareness of the wonderful expository nonfiction books being published today. Sure, I have my favorites, but just like anyone else, I have reading gaps, so I wanted to include a wide variety of voices. Mission accomplished! I’ve spoken to dozens of educators who are referring to these lists as they buy new books for their collections. But along the way, I also made five important discoveries.
First, the lists weren't as diverse as I expected. Many titles were listed over and over again. What does that mean? We need more great expository nonfiction titles to be published!
Second, in general, the books that showed up multiple times were published recently. They got a lot of love from kidlit bloggers, but not from the major review journals. I'd like us to consider what accounts for that discrepancy.
Third, the majority of titles listed were STEM-themed picture books. There are very few MG and YA expository titles being published, and there are almost no finely-crafted expository books about social studies topics. We need to change this. Fourth, even though everyone who contributed a list is an experienced educator with an above-average knowledge of children’s literature, many had trouble distinguishing between expository and narrative titles. Imagine how challenging it must be for teachers with less knowledge and experience. This realization is one of the reasons I developed the Nonfiction Family Tree.
Because so many people found it valuable, I later developed these slides, which summarize the major characteristics of each category. They're great for educators as well as students.
Fifth, many of the lists ended up including some blended titles—books that feature roughly equal amounts of narrative and expository text. I think there are two reasons for this.
(1) We need more great expository titles to be published.
(2) I suspect that most contributors have a natural affinity for a narrative writing style (which is why they chose jobs related to books and reading). As a result, they gravitate toward books that include narrative as well as expository writing. It’s important for us to remember that there’s a growing body of research indicating that many elementary students prefer expository text. We need to make sure that book collections include the kinds of books that will make all children fall in love with reading.
While this 5 Fave strand is coming to an end, my thinking about nonfiction in general, and expository nonfiction in particular, will continue. I hope to have more helpful posts starting in September. Have a great summer!