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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

Road Trip

Next week — snow willing — I will be meeting with librarians in the Buffalo, New York area, talking about NF and the Common Core — a three different libraries in three days. This is an interesting challenge, and opportunity, because I will be hosting all-day seminar/workshops, not just giving a talk about a new book or some theme in books for young readers. A full day is a large canvas, and while that means there is a lot of white space (time) to fill, it also means you can aim big, you can truly accomplish something. But what? What do the librarians who come want, what can we accomplish together?

I’ve been reading over the standards and thinking about how to link the objectives which are nicely mapped out by grade, genre, and subtheme to specific books. I’d like the librarians to leave thinking, of course, I know that, I know how to do that, I can see how this works for my collection and my kids. But that is not all. At the end of my Skype visit with Susan Bloom’s graduate students the other day, she asked me if — with the Sibert and the YA NF award, etc. — I no longer have to be on a pulpit about NF. I replied that speaking up for NF is not a sermon or a cause for me, it is a passion. I simply love NF — it is erotic not political. And so part of what I hope the librarians get from the talks is excitement about a genre that, too often, is the wallflower, the neglected step-child of fiction.

When I asked what would be useful to the librarians, one of my hosts shared this article: // While it is more educationese than I usually speak (or read) I found one basic idea in it very useful: the more you know the more you can know. So when you grow up on a diet of textbooks smoothed out to be easy and present no challenges, you never grow, you remain stuck. NF that challenges you to read new words, consider new concepts, absorb new frames of reference allows you to move on, move ahead. By supposedly being nice to young readers — making everything easy: simple words, short sentences — we actually trap them in simplification, we do not allow them to move on. Our knowledge of history, art, culture, politics, economics is what we have to offer young people, it frees them from the morass of the now. We need to trust that — that will be at least one of my messages next week. I’ll let you know how it goes.


  1. Nancy O'Donnell says:

    I am one of the fortunate librarians who will be attending the all day conference in Buffalo, New York. Your statement “being nice to young readers — making everything easy: simple words, short sentences — we actually trap them in simplification, we do not allow them to move on” is so correct. However, how do we change this concept with book publishers that continue to produce books in this format, especially for high school students. Short and sweet, lots of pictures, and nothing over 150 pages is what I am finding in many book vendor catalogs. I can’t get students to use or borrow anything different. They don’t have the mental stamina to read, dig and absorb new ideas.
    I’m looking forward to the conference.

  2. Marc Aronson says:

    thank you, we need to all think together to find ways past this quagmire of the dumbed down.