A guest post by Melissa Stewart
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. It’s hard to believe that an idea I posted just to see if it might resonate with anyone has become more and more popular.
Teachers and librarians really see how classifying books in this way can help students think about the wide world of nonfiction and all that it has to offer. As I thought more deeply about the relationship among the various categories, I realized that my original tree diagram didn’t quite work and began using a visual like this one:
At the 2019 AASL conference in Louisville, Kentucky, I presented the 5 Kinds of Nonfiction classification system to a standing-room-only audience, and afterward, some folks from Lerner approached me with an incredible idea—they wanted to use the system to classify all their books. Look at the stunning visuals they developed:
After presenting the classification system at nErDCamp in Parma, Michigan, I was approached by an editor from Stenhouse Publishing. He invited me to write a book for educators, and I’m happy to announce that 5 Kinds of Nonfiction: Enriching Reading and Writing Instruction with Children’s Books will be published next spring. In fact, we just finalized the cover. (Editor’s note: and you’ll be able to pre-order it from our site soon!)
Why is there so much excitement about this system? Because when students understand the characteristics of the five categories, they can predict the type of information they’re likely to find in a particular book and how that information will be presented. As a result, they can quickly and easily identify the best books for a particular purpose (early stages of research, later stages of research, mentor texts in writing workshop, etc.) as well as the kind of nonfiction books they enjoy reading most.
Here’s what Texas school librarian Traci Kirkland has to say about it:
“The 5 Kinds of Nonfiction classification system brings clarity to the way we think about nonfiction. We’re used to subdividing our fiction section into genres like mysteries and science fiction. But then we just lump all the nonfiction together. Now we can see smart, useful ways to categorize these books too.”
Melissa Stewart has written more than 180 science books for children, including the ALA Notable Feathers: Not Just for Flying, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen; the SCBWI Golden Kite Honor title Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis; and Can an Aardvark Bark?, illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Steve Jenkins. She edited the anthology Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep: 50 Award-winning Authors Share the Secret of Engaging Writing. Melissa maintains the award-winning blog Celebrate Science and serves on the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators board of advisors. Her highly-regarded website features a rich array of nonfiction writing resources.
Note from Lerner: This post kicks off a weekly series of guest articles by nonfiction authors about their craft, their process, and their amazing books. Stay tuned each week to learn more by visiting the 5 Kinds of Nonfiction page for poster and flyer downloads, curated booklists and more. You can also follow the Lerner Blog’s 5 Kinds of Nonfiction series, or the hashtag #5KNF on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.