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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

Meeting With Kids, and the CC Shift

Yesterday I got to meet, talk with, present ideas to about 400 middle school students at Davs Drive school in NC, and I am writing this from the library of Mills Park, where I will again meet about 400 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. What I see so far is that both the kids and the teachers start from a rather typical split — fiction over NF, with a scattering of (mainly) boy readers who read only NF. And in talking with the teachers and librarians, I see the key issue that I knew would be lurking — they themselves may not have had good history, science, or math teachers — nor have they since read books in these areas that they loved. So the mandate to treat NF as a Language Art does not match anything in their own adult reading or learning experience. But the other thing I see in the students and teachers is true excitement — once they begin to see how interesting, well, everything, is, and how NF is about inquiry not memorization — you see the world spinning in front of you.

My sense is that as districts deal with the CC shift, they need to have professional development that begins with the simple question of what the pleasures of NF might be — establish pleasure — then link that to all of the kinds of reading skills the CC mandates: compare and contrast, find the structure of the book, identify the argument and how it is made, etc. Those are all teaching skills that are not hard to master. But they need to be grounded in a sense of what NF offers — that the book are not a loss imposed by yet another mandate from on high, but rather a new opening, a new chance to open eyes and enjoy reading.

On a totally different note, can’t help including a link to a wonderful article my friend Ruth Pennebaker published in the Times today about walking in the city and its memories with me:


  1. I am a student at mills Park Middle! I am soooooo excited to meet you! I’m doing a webquest about you right now!!!! I have to go finish that now. Bye! see you later!

  2. Myra Zarnowski says:

    I agree wholeheartedly that nonfiction reading needs to be seen as pleasure reading. In my nonfiction course, I often assign books with the simple assignment, “Sit back and enjoy.” It works. Freed from the necessity of remembering details, readers do enjoy nonfiction. If teachers enjoy nonfiction, they will communicate their pleasure to their students. It’s contagious.

  3. that is so cool i am a student at mills park and when i read this i was so excited. I acually am a girl who reads nonfiction. i started with one of your books and when i read the first page i was hooked now i have three of your books. i have war is.., witch hunt, and aint nothing but a man. they are all so good. aint nothing but a man was the first book i read but now i have more. i cant wait to here your presentation. see you then.

  4. Hi,
    I go to mills park middle school. I am so excited to meet you today. So i am hoping to buy one of your books, like trapped.

  5. Jaclyn and Dana says:

    We go to Mills Park and we are excited to see you in our 6th period. We are anxious to hear what your going to talk about… and we have some questions to ask! see you later!(:

  6. Susan Jackson says:

    Thank you, Marc, for generating that enthusiasm for non-fiction for all 1181 of our Davis Drive Middle students and staff as well!! It was a fabulous day and students and teachers have affirmed that throughout today! We all look forward to continued reading of your books!!!