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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Favorites and Nonfiction

Marc Aronson continues to advocate for everyone to include quality nonfiction in their Best Books or Favorite Books lists. I don’t believe enough people are discussing this yet. The majority of my budget every year goes to nonfiction. Yes, I attempt to support the A.R. program and provide quality fiction and picture books, but at $7.50 per student to cover all media, books, and periodicals, I cannot even replace worn-out books. I purchase nonfiction because I know my teachers can go to the public library also and find their favorite fictional authors. I can booktalk the first 3 titles in a fictional series for students and then tell them to go to the public library so-and-so branch to read the other 55 in the series. But, Marc, when it comes to best or favorite nonfiction books, I am at a serious disadvantage.

Most unusual quality nonfiction is written for middle school up. In the elementary world where we balance beginning readers with avidly, curious minds and bizarre curriculums, where are the special quality nonfiction books? Kathleen Baxter does a fabulous presentation on nonfiction, but she seems to be a lone voice for our age

I do purchase many series and individual nonfiction books. I could rattle off my favorite series nonfiction from 5 different publishers, my favorite nonfiction writers for reading levels 1-3, and my favorite read-alouds. I rarely teach  without a nonfiction book, thinking, and asking more at the heart of the lesson.

But, if I tell you my favorites, the elitist nonfiction writers will ridicule me for a so-called lack of quality. They seem to want glorious titles, while I am the very PRACTICAL librarian who wants titles that make children say:

"Wow! I always wondered about that!"
"I didn’t know that."
"What else can I find out?"
"Do you have any other books like this one?"
"Everybody should read this one."

If you truly want the school library world to include more nonfiction, our choices shouldn’t be ridiculed, but recognized as the baby steps of informational texts. We must have books with information to meet the questions of our readers and to inspire new questions.

The public library can actually hurt us when they create consistent displays of New Books which are all fiction and then on the back shelves have New Nonfiction books. There seems to be a stigma to travel to that section. I studied the display last week at my public library while pretending to be reading. Mainly women stopped at the new fiction part (for an average of 2 minutes), while men went directly to new nonfiction (for 6  minutes while women spent less than 5 seconds), over to the OPAC and shelves, then back to the new fiction (where the men spent an average of 9 seconds). Die-hard fiction series readers picked up new fiction titles and had lists as they came in. Many of the women who chose nonfiction used the OPAC first, then spent a long time in the shelves  choosing among subjects, not browsing. This was my informal two hour study, but I wonder if someone has studied this in more depth.


  1. Interesting post about men and women at the fiction vs non-fiction displays. Funny, I usually go to the non-fiction section first.

    Best, Kyra
    author, Martha Ann’s Quilt for Queen Victoria (a biography)