Elementary school classrooms should have a balance between fiction, nonfiction, and poetry in the classroom library. This gives students a wide variety of books to choose from and shows them that all kinds of reading is valued in the classroom. In addition, the read alouds teachers do with children should be balanced too. If teachers just read fiction to students, then it sends a clear message that only stories are valued. Conversely, if the read alouds are too heavy on the informational side, then children don’t get the chance to lose themselves in a story.
Barbara Moss, Susan Leone, and Mary Lou DiPillo published “Exploring the Literature of Fact: Linking Reading and Writing through Information Trade Books” in Language Arts (October 1997). They asserted:
If children are to become familiar with well-written exposition, they must have up-to-date information trade books available in the classroom. Such books should constitute approximately one-fourth to one-half of the classroom library collection at every grade level. Information books selected should address a wide range of topics and encompass many different levels of difficulty.
Book selections should be made on the basis of the “five A’s”: a) authority of the author; b) the accuracy of the text content; c) the appropriateness of the book for children d) the literary artistry; and e) the appearance of the book (420).
Finding that balance isn’t easy, especially when budgets are tight! However, finding quality nonfiction texts for children is of paramount importance.
I recently looked over the list of books I read aloud to my students during my final year as a full-time classroom teacher. It was not balanced. In fact, it was heavy on the fiction side. No one ever encouraged me to take stock of my read alouds to ensure they were balanced between narrative and exposition. While I’m not proud of the lopsided nature of this book list, I know there’s something I can learn from it as a parent.
After re-reading the article for the grad course I’m teaching, I took stock of the picture books that are in my daughter’s play room. As I suspected, they’re predominately fiction! (Thankfully, her board book are a bit more balanced in terms of being informative, rather than just stories.) Therefore, I am now going to make a concerted effort to locate and purchase quality nonfiction books (using Moss et. al.’s five A’s criterion) for her at-home library. Ensuring that she has a balanced diet of books at home is one of many ways I can make sure she is well-prepared not just as a reader, but as a well-rounded person.