Nonfiction & Reference Resources for Children

Nonfiction Resources in the Classroom

In the first chapter of Administering the School Library Media Center, John Gillespie and Diana Spirt discuss the development of the school library media center as it relates to changes in educational goals and the development of libraries in general. They present a concise yet thorough account of the changes that occurred from 1835 through the early 1980's. (Gillespie and Spirt 1983)

Throughout modern history standards of learning and educational goals, trends, movements, and funding have had a strong influence on libraries and the selection of resources. These changes in demand dictated changes in the publishing industry. Likewise the availability of new and innovative resource materials influenced the changes in educational goals and the selection of resources. This growth cycle resulted in constant change, which occurred at varying rates most often dependent upon economic and technological factors. Today these changes are occurring at a staggering rate which results in an increased need for educators, media center specialists and other librarians to react quickly and positively to, and hopefully antipate, these growing and changing needs for information.

Discussed below are some of the current issues in education that have a direct impact on the library or school media center.

The Aliterate Student
The aliterate student is one who can read adequately or often quite well but who shows no interest in doing so. Evelyn Vanek, in her article "Nonfiction for Reluctant Readers", refers to studies that have shown that these reluctant readers will often develop an interest in reading when introduced to excellent nonfiction materials. In this same article she presents a list of nonfiction books (such as Michael Pellowski's The Art of Making Comic Books and Charlotte Foltz Jones' Mistakes That Worked) that she has found to be popular with young readers. (Vanek 1997)

Whole Language
The whole language approach to the teaching of reading skills de-emphasizes the use of the classic reader textbook and focuses on the use of trade books as educational instruments. Reading for enjoyment is encouraged, the student is encouraged to increase the time spent reading. This method of teaching has led to the need for classroom "libraries" of substantial size.

Integration of Subject Areas
As educators pursue such endeavors as team teaching and across-the-curriculum units, the use of excellent nonfiction resources can greatly enhance the lessons and support the teachers efforts. More and more nonfiction materials that show the relationship between subjects such as art and science are being produced. For resources which help locate such materials, see:
Selected Sources for Reviews and Information

Integration of Technology
The integrated use of technology in the classroom is expected or required in almost every school in the United States. Teachers are either extremely excited about this or extremely anxious. The media center specialist must be capable of helping teachers with the use of equipment, online resources, and other supportive materials in order to fulfill his/her role. Many books and articles have been written on this subject, and instructive workshops and classes are offered at community colleges, by vendors, and even on the World Wide Web. For a list of some usesful sites which could help in discovering ways to integrate technology see:
Links to Related Web Sites

Critical Thinking Skills
Nonfiction books can encourage critical thinking skills in many ways. In Nonfiction for Young Adults From Delight to Wisdom, the authors suggest that text books sometimes fail to offer more than one interpretation of a subject and that nonfiction books can help the student challenge the "facts" and explore various solutions, interpretations, and perceptions. Good bibliographies will lead to many sources on a subject, and classroom discussions can become lively, exciting, and thought provoking. (Carter and Abrahamson 1990)

Information Literacy - The Inquiry Process
With the advent of the Information Age and the explosion of readily available information, the focus of teaching students to create the time honored research paper is shifting more toward teaching and evaluating the process of research and the creation of the product as opposed to teaching the process and evaluating the product. It is an effort to recognize the importance of the journey as well as the destination. There are several models for the processing of information. Links to a few of the ones that are available online are listed below:
  • INFO ZONE Research Skills
  • Pathways to Knowledge
  • The Research Cycle
  • The Big 6 Web Site
  • The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) of the American Library Association (ALA) and the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) are working to develop a set of Information Literacy Standards for Student Learning. Information on this can be found online in the Information Power section at:
    AASL - ALA
    Many states and organizations have standards of their own. This is an important area for continued professional consideration.
    An important aspect of information literacy is understanding how to evaluate an Internet resource. In her article "Evaluating Internet Sources", Jackie Carrigan emphasizes the importance of this being taught by school media specialists. She suggests the student should be taught to examine the source, the information itself, and the appearance and usefulness of the site. (Carrigan 1997) She also recommends the following site for more information:
    Critical Evaluation Surveys - Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators

    Learning Styles
    The information on learning styles continues to grow and the authors and publishers of children's books have definitely responded. The influx of a large number of audio books and books employing a variety of techniques such as transparent overlays, sound buttons, scratch and sniff patches, tactile inserts, and paper engineering show a very responsive industry. For more information on learning styles see the links at:
    Learning style Links - Greg's Home Page

    Educational Research and Improvement
    The Department of Education has published numerous reports on various issues related to educational reform. Many are available online in full text at:
    Educational Research and Improvement Reports and Studies
    Some of the topics are provided below as links:
  • Bilingual Education
  • Gifted and Talented Students
  • State of the Art Goals - Mathematics
  • State of the Art Goals - Reading
  • State of the Art Goals - Science
  • Technology
  • For a list of sources cited here and all of the resources used in the research of information for this web site see:
    Sources of Information & Credits

    There are many books available that provide information on using nonfiction in the classroom. Three valuable ones are listed below:

  • Ammon, Bette D. and Gale W. Sherman. Worth a Thousand Words: An Annotated Guide to Picture Books for Older Readers. Englewood, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, Inc., 1996.
    Provides excellent information on fiction and nonfiction picture books for older readers, including an author/illustrator, a title, and a subject index. Entries are very complete with ideas for the use of the books and activity suggestions.

  • Bamford, Rosemary A. and Janice V. Kristo, eds. Making Facts Come Alive: Choosing Quality Nonfiction Literature K-8. Norwood, Mass.: Christopher-Gordon Publishers, Inc., 1998.
    This valuable resource contains up-to-date information on evaluating and selecting nonfiction, about using nonfiction in the curriculum subject areas, on bringing nonfiction books and students together, and about some of the authors and their books. There is a complete bibliography of children's books cited. Title, author/illustrator, and subject indexes are included.

  • Pullis, Laura Turner. Information Investigation: Exploring Nonfiction with Books Kids Love. Golden, Colo.: Fulcrum Publishing, 1998.
    Geared toward grade levels 3 through 6, this book includes eleven chapters, each of which is a study unit with a specific subject or theme. Each chapter includes activities, reading suggestions, vocabulary words, bibliographies, and reproducibles. The purpose behind every unit is to develop and strengthen research and investigative skills.

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