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Common Core: Negotiating the Nonfiction Landscape

Post by Beth Gerall
Posted May 02, 2013 in Kids & Book News, NoveList K-8 Plus

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The Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical studies were first released in 2010, with all but 5 states adopting them as of this blog post. There has been a flood of information, praise, and critique relating to Common Core. This new blog series is intended to process this plethora of information and pass it onto you. In this inaugural post, I’ll be discussing the goals that the Common Core Standards are trying to achieve, and give you some tips for meeting them.

What is Common Core trying to do?

Many of you have been working with the Common Core Standards for a few years now, so this may be old news. For those of you that haven’t, or just want a brief refresher, here are the major details:

  • Common Core wants educators to teach with more depth and less breadth. It’s about teaching kids how to learn, so that they have the confidence to carry that knowledge beyond the classroom. As librarians, helping kids learn how to learn has always been a part of our mission.
  • Common Core strives for learning to be less about memorizing facts and dates, and more about engaging with the material at hand -- thinking about a question, finding information within the text, to support responses and answers.
  • Common Core is about the “Why?” and the “How do I know why?”

The Shift from Fiction to Nonfiction

From Great Expectations to The Great Gatsby, teachers and librarians have long understood the importance of fiction literature as a teaching tool. A strict reading diet of fiction may not, however, help kids learn everything they need to in order to be college or career ready. With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, demands for informational, nonfiction texts have increased. This is one of the bigger challenges associated with Common Core, finding nonfiction texts that engage kids may prove difficult. And this challenge brings me to…

How to Find Nonfiction that Engages Kids

Here are some tips for finding nonfiction books that will keep kids reading and learning:

  • Tailor your search by Lexile, audience level, and grade.
  • Search for books nonfiction books that are well-reviewed with a proven track record of success with kids.
  • Take advantage of NoveList’s Common Core Connections. These short, subject and grade based guides provide 3 solid nonfiction titles along with standards-based questions to support students’ reading.

Within NoveList, you’ll also find our Ramping Up Reading and Teaching Writing Through Picture Books series with over 25 articles designed to provide teaching tips and carefully selected, annotated titles, to help teach Common Core’s Anchor Standards. How many times have you been asked for books that help teach author’s purpose, or books with strong figurative language or even books that are perfect for teaching inference? These are just a few of the topics covered in these two excellent series.

Promote Your Nonfiction Collection

Now that you have a substantial list of nonfiction books that meet Common Core Standards, how can you get the word out?

  • Make a fun bookmark for kids to keep track of their reading progress.
  • Send out an e-blast to teachers and parents highlighting recommended titles.
  • Promote new titles on your library website.

(By the way – did you know that NoveList also has a product called LibraryAware that is a great tool for creating and managing promotions like these? Check it out at The possibilities are endless!)

As we continue to add to and expand our content relating to Common Core, I’d love to hear from you! What kinds of content would you like to see, and what we can do to help you meet Common Core Standards? Email me at

Beth Gerall is the Juvenile Content Lead for NoveList.