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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

Could This Work for K-12?

I Went to My Older Son’s Rookie League Team BBQ Last Night and

got talking with a dad who works for a major academic publisher. He was just back from the Canadian Library Association meeting where his job was to sell on-line rights to their books. As many of you may know, this cross of book and online got its big start when Oxford put the OED online. That was the "killer-ap" that showed universities, libraries, publishers that a subscription model could work online for a work traditionally sold in print. Now, the dad I met offers many books and book series to college libraries. The school then makes those resources available to students and faculty anytime and anywhere they log in to the library.

I am sure this is much more familiar to all of you than to me. But it opens up this question — why couldn’t we do something similar to with nonfiction for K-12? Why not group books around a curricular topic, license that cluster to schools, provide some teachers guide materials showing how those particular texts can be used, offer some links to primary sources, outline links to multimedia options if available (like the sound clips I wrote about earlier this week). In other words, as the academic publishers are doing, turn a single hardcover book into a resource that can easily be shared and used in class — skipping over the entire publishers-often-don’t-put-YA-nonfiction-into-paperback, and hardcovers-cost-too-much-to-be-used-in-class, issue. 

I realize that not all kids have easy computer access, that schools would need to figure out what is the right age level for providing this online access, that there are (as I talk about in a Consider the Source column) copyright and perm issues for us that are different from academic books — especially because we all use more art. I realize all this. And, to be clear, I don’t think just dumpiong resources into an online environment is a good idea. The great advantage of a library, and, especially, a school library is selection, and the knowledge provided by the librarian. So the obvious extension would be to have the school librarian meet with the teachers before each semester, work together to select the online resources that will be most useful during that period, and then to plan out the regular bound book resources that would work hand in hand with the online selection.

Probably many of you are doing something like this already, but isn’t this an obvious model for authors, editors, publishers, teachers, and librarians to create together?


  1. ROSANNE Z says:

    What you are suggesting is currently being done by UXl and to a degree, Enslow. UXL offers e-books of their reference titles. The e-books are word for word from the print copy and can be viewed in text or pdf. In addition, they are hyperlinked and have indexes, so students can navigate to the section that they need. My teachers use these resources in class and students also have access to them at home.

    Enslow’s non-fiction titles are not online but some of their non-fiction titles in the My Report Links series provides a password for web links related to the topic that are on the publisher’s web site. Students can bypass Google and go directly to the evaluated and educational online resources.

    The UXL and Enslow non-fiction is being used for research, obviously, and this is what I understand you are suggesting. I don’t know that it would work so well in promoting non-fiction for pleasure reading. Unfortunately, as students get older, their view of non-fiction seems to shift from that of pleasure reading to that of research and extracting information. As a librarian, I would still want the non-fiction to be available in print for students to hold and see and browse and enjoy. I would love for them to see that non-fiction isn’t just for research.

  2. Rosanne says:

    Thanks for the information. I agree completely. So I think books should be available in two forms — in hardcover on shelfs, and electronically so teachers could use parts to share with classes.

  3. Lerner also has the Visual Geography Series. My dau. gave KENYA IN PICTURES, copyright 2003 but I can go to for updated information. But I would love to see units developed that use a variety of different resources plus varied teaching techniques to meet individual student reading needs. I put a unit like that on Margaret Mead and attitudes toward women in the 1920s on my web site but, to be honest, never got one done when my Leakey bio came out because it was a horrendous, time-gobbling job! But yes, something teachers can use to get information to students in a thematic way would really be useful.