On a recent school visit, a Media Specialist asked how I thought the Common Core State Standards have affected children’s authors. Mmmmm … interesting question.
As most everyone knows, the Common Core State Standards emphasize the importance of students reading nonfiction books (called “informational text,” which includes biographies and autobiographies, as well as titles about math, science, social studies, history, and the arts.) For example, the CCSS guidelines recommend fourth graders read half nonfiction and half fiction texts.
So what does this mean to picture book writers?
Actually, I don’t think the new standards and their emphasis on nonfiction has had a major affect on picture book authors. Through the years many of my writing instructors and editors have shared that they find the most successful stories are from authors who write about topics of great personal interest. In my writing experiences, and from observing my critique group friends, this rings true.
Crafting a focused, engaging picture book with its limited word count is challenging. But this task can be even more difficult when authors try to write about the latest topics or trends (eh hem, nonfiction,) rather than what they want to write about.
So even though educational standards have recently placed attention on nonfiction, I think creative, imaginative fiction children’s writers will probably continue pursuing their passion for fiction. Likewise, I believe authors who adore nonfiction (and digging into research) will continue writing about nonfiction topics that inspire them, rather than trying to find topics which specifically address the Common Core State Standards or the recently created Next Generation Science Standards.
A nonfiction author usually choose a particular subject because it inspires him or her. But for many authors I know, their writing and research goes well beyond inspiration. They are obsessed, and I have to admit I’ve experienced the same thing. After stumbling across a little-known historical fact, an incredible life story, or an unbelievable event, I find I can’t to stop thinking about it. Then before I know it I’m knee-deep in research, scribbling a story outline on a napkin during dinner.
Now back to those standards … once a nonfiction (or fiction) author finishes a story he or she feels inspired to write, I think it’s helpful at that point to think about how their story could address the Common Core State Standards and/or Next Generation Science Standards. Both standards provide unique opportunities for authors to create ways to help teachers use their books more effectively in classrooms.
What are some of yours?