Nonfiction is…

I was walking through the library the other day and I heard,

Teacher: What kind of book is this?

Students: Nonfiction!

Teacher: That’s right! Nonfiction is a story about something that is real.

This is the way I was taught to define nonfiction, and for years it was what I taught my students as well. Fiction is made up (fake) and nonfiction is real (true). But is it? Is that what nonfiction is?

Is nonfiction always stories that are real?

I don’t know if I have the definitive answer yet, but one thing I do know is that if we teach our students that nonfiction is real, they hear “nonfiction is true”. We are essentially teaching them that they don’t need to think about whether they believe it or not, or whether they agree or not. We are sending the message, “If it’s nonfiction, it’s true. Read it and believe it. Done.” That’s a scary future, don’t you think? If our children grow up to believe that what they read in print is true unless it is fiction? Know an email, letter or persuasive article you read that you didn’t think was accurate? Think about what is already happening to our world because people don’t take the time to think about whether or not what they read (or watch on TV, or hear from their friend about what they read or watched on TV) is accurate?

I don’t know about you, but I want my students growing up to be the kind of adults who fact check, who ask clarifying questions, who dig deeper, and who read multiple accounts to make sure that they have the whole story. Want to read a great book that can get your students reading, thinking and discussing nonfiction? Reading Nonfiction by Kylene Beers and Robert E Probst will change the way you think about teaching nonfiction, and will help you give your students strategies to be responsible nonfiction readers in the 21st century. 

reading nonfiction

Enjoy the Dance and push kids to be great thinkers and readers of nonfiction! ;D

Rebecca Rèe

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