Friday, July 16, 2021

Professional Reads Series - Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep - 7.16.21

Let's just say it.  It was a difficult year last school year.  It was difficult to read.  It was hard to focus.  Every last bit of attention had to go to what you were presently doing.  I think there is going to be a lot of PTSD recovery that is going to need to happen way longer than a summer break can offer!  I did not do any professional reading last year.  I had intentions, but there just wasn't a chance I could give an extra thought other than to what I was doing.  So, trying to make up for some time this summer!

I'm hoping to review a few before we all head back to school.  My goal as I read them was to be thinking about how does this translate for me?  As a teacher?  As a coach?  As someone who works with large groups and small groups of readers?  As I write up my review, those are things I wanted to let blog readers know about.
The first book I read:

Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep by Melissa Stewart
Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep
edited by Melissa Stewart
published by NCTE

This one has been in my possession for awhile, and I'm sorry it took me so long to get to, but, as mentioned, covid, so yeah.

This book was a bit different from the other professional books I read because it was written by authors instead of someone in the professional development field.  That made it a unique read right away.  Nonfiction author Melissa Stewart, brings together 50 award-winning children's book authors to explain their nonfiction writing process and what keeps them writing.  There are three main topics: choosing a topic, finding a focus, and making it personal.

Before I explain any further, this is not a book that is celebrating the authors' finished books.  It really is authors sharing what makes them excited about writing nonfiction and how that translates into their process.

If you know Melissa Stewart, then you know she kind of knows her way around text structures.  So you can imagine the structure of this book is going to be perfect and very easy for the reader to use and follow.  Each of the above three main topics get further broken down in their respective chapter.  Melissa starts by giving an introduction and usually makes a personal connection to her writing process that gives an example and helps explain it to the reader.  After the introduction, I understood the point of the chapter and it helped me focus on what I would probably be getting out of reading the rest of it.  Next came the personal essays from a kidlit nonfiction author.  Some of the authors write picture books, some write longer form nonfiction, which helps make this book useful to kindergarten teachers through high school; I bet even a college professor would gain info from this book!  The reader can read every essay, but Stewart includes a table before this section begins that gives a quick explanation of the author, the format they write in (picture book vs. longer format), focus, and their essay highlight.  This table was helpful for me because I was able to quickly decide which essays sounded the most pertinent to me and focus on them.  The other essays I skimmed through in case there was something I might want to read a bit more closely.  I thought it was interesting the picture books all start at grade 4 for as far as recommended level, but there were many picture books that we use at a kindergarten level.  Don't let that limit your reading of this book if you are a primary teacher.  There are nuggets of information that will pertain to you too!  The last section in each chapter are some teaching tips.  I found these to be helpful.  Many of them sparked an idea that I can use or tweak to make work with our students.

As with any professional development book I read, I always try and let it sit and think about how this will work for me.  Something I had to remember while reading, is that while the kidlit authors give some great ideas and thoughts, it is different for them because  they choose what they want to write about.  While not always the case for our young writers at school, I found myself thinking about how can I take that nugget from an author and make it work when our students are writing about something specific in a content area topic.  However, it also did make me think about more informational choice writing and research!  Something I would like to explore more.

Something else I thought about was the amount of nonfiction resources we have available for our learners.  Students need to be exposed to nonfiction through readalouds.  They need to hear how it sounds, they need to understand the differences and how to explore this type of literature.  Too often educators reach for fiction picture books.  We need to actively monitor and notice the amount of nonfiction vs fiction we are choosing to read.  We also need to notice how much nonfiction we are including in classroom libraries.  Are kids able to find books about the topics they are interested in learning about?  Are there picture books about the social science and science topics they are currently learning about?  Making sure we have nonfiction resources for students, both in trade books and magazine articles and media posts and internet articles could easily be a full time position for a school!  I also loved the idea that not all information has to come from a book - help students find information by interviewing an expert or conducting field research!

The bottom line (in my opinion):
useful for teachers: grades kg-college
topic:  nonfiction writing
uses: helps a teacher think more deeply about getting students invested in their writing to lift engagement and therefore have a positive effect on their writing process
will a teacher gain instant ideas:  yes
final thought:  you get real ideas in here that you probably won't get from sitting through your next professional development training at school

*Thank you to NCTE for the review copy of this book!*

If you have not heard of this book or have been wondering whether or not to pick it up, I hope this review was helpful!  

1 comment:

  1. It's awesome that you got so much out of this book in terms of professional development and shared your thoughts with us! It's awesome that you found some practical applications in terms of your students' writing/research and in terms of utilizing nonfiction in the classroom. Thanks so much for the thoughtful post!