I grew up in the generation where many nonfiction books were dry and text-heavy. The content was to-the-point, and there were few photographs or illustrations. The purpose of even checking out a nonfiction book at the library was solely for school research projects.
Fast forward thirty-plus years. Nonfiction has changed. It’s fun. It’s fresh. It tells a story. Kids who “don’t like” nonfiction might not even know they’re reading it (kind of like giving a child something healthy to eat and they don’t notice!) So now we have kids reading these books for pleasure. But how can you utilize all of these great nonfiction books as part of your instruction? How can you even find out about them?
While web surfing the other day, I came across the site iNK and was intrigued. I had to find out more. What I found out is that the person behind this resource is Vicki Cobb. Those in the world of education know this name well: she wrote such books as Bet You Can’t! and Science Experiments You Can Eat. And she was one of the pioneers in the change in nonfiction. I tracked her down and had the opportunity to chat with her to learn more about iNK and The Nonfiction Minute.
iNK stands for Interesting Nonfiction for Kids and is a nonfiction database for teachers and librarians. The books that are part of the database are all written by award-winning, nonfiction children’s authors: Lawrence Pringle, April Pulley Sayre, Steve Jenkins, and Steve Swinburne, to name a few.
Vicki made an interesting point about how authors’ books are shelved. Fiction authors’ books are clustered together on the shelves of libraries and bookstores since fiction is catalogued by the author’s last name. On the other hand, nonfiction authors’ books are scattered throughout the stacks, catalogued by the subject’s call number. If a reader enjoys a particular author, they can’t just grab all of the books from that section of the shelf.
iNK introduces teachers and librarians to award-winning nonfiction authors and their body of work. iNK also allows teachers and librarians to work with some of the authors through the writers-in-residence program Authors on Call. A teacher or librarian can sign up for a professional development program titled Class ACTS Program. This program is customized for the teacher or teachers’ needs and includes written communication and videoconferencing with an author. See http://inkthinktank.org/images/INKBOOKLET.pdf and http://www.nonfictionminute.org/authors-on-call.html for more details.
Vicki Cobb also heads The Nonfiction Minute, which is a blog featuring posts by nonfiction children’s authors. In addition to interesting nonfiction posts, you can listen to the authors read their posts! There are so many fun articles with high-interest photos. Teachers and librarians can also do a search by topic or scroll through the category list. These posts are great to share with students and show how nonfiction has voice.
Last, a new book is out by these award-winning nonfiction authors titled 30 People Who Changed the World: Fascinating Bit-Sized Essays from Award-Winning Writers (edited by Jean Reynolds). It includes biographies on people in a variety of fields, people such as Julius Caesar, Rosa Parks, and Roald Amundsen. And coming in March: 30 Animals That Share Our World. The book demonstrates voice through nonfiction, a topic that has more recently been studied with students.
And if you’re a big fan of Vicki Cobb, check out her posts on her new blog: www.vickicobbsblog.com.
So if you’re looking to add a component to your science, social studies, reading, math, or writing curriculum (wait, that’s just about everything!), check out The Nonfiction Minute and iNK.