Sunday, November 24, 2013

Common Core: Basics and Opportunities

Everyone is talking about the Common Core Standards: it's implementation means nonfiction is up and coming. Not being a librarian or teacher, I didn't know more than that, and thought I should.  I delved in, and discovered some useful resources and emerging opportunities.

Common Core Goal 
“To align instruction…so that many more students than at present can meet the requirements of college and career readiness.”   
Sounds like a worthy goal, but what does that mean for me as a writer?

Informational Texts 
In the introduction, the standards talk about a "growing emphasis on informational texts”, especially in higher grades.  These texts can include textbooks, speeches, articles, and essays as well as nonfiction trade books. 
“Fulfilling the Standards for 6-12 ELA (English Language Arts) requires much greater attention to a specific category of informational text—literary nonfiction—than has been traditional.”  (emphasis added)
The guidelines for reading literary vs. informational passages are defined as:

Literary Passages
Informational Passages

The Distribution by Grade (2009 NAEP Reading Framework) represents the sum of student reading, not just reading in English Language Arts settings and will affect educators, and writers, across subject areas.

Appendix B 
The 183-page Appendix B provides a list of ‘exemplars’ by grade band (K-1, 2-3, etc.), with extracted text of numerous fiction and nonfiction works.    

While the appendix is not meant to be a complete list by any means, it is used a starting point, so much so that some educators are simply ordering from it.  However, in certain areas, K-1 for example, the informational text listing includes dated, re-issued books such as My Five Senses by Aliki, 1989 (1962) and Starfish by Edith Thacher Hurd, 2000 (1962).  The list seems more current (or directly historical) in grades 6-8.  

It's worth a scan for favored topics, as well as gaps. The new educational strategy of information-based reading should giving rise to lots of writing opportunities: fresh, new material, or old material with a fresh take.   (There is some debate as to whether an emphasis on non-fiction reading leads to better college readiness.  It doesn’t seem debatable that these guidelines are driving a change in publishing and purchasing patterns.)

In a post on I.N.K. (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids), the author notes that one educator has pointed out the lack of multicultural diversity in the Appendix and suggested alternatives.  These are currently being considered for inclusion in a revision, suggesting a continuing evolution and adaptation of the Standards.  

The Horn Book Nonfiction Notes is a great way to keep up with new non-fiction books, as well as offering a wealth of back matter on the nonfiction world and the emergence of the Common Core. 
All this discussion about the increasing importance of nonfiction is not just wishful thinking on the part of nonfiction authors.  Understanding and referring to the Common Core Standards can be a useful tool in marketing your manuscript (see Gale’s post from October 28 "Added Attractions Necessary?").  Forty-five states have adopted the Standards.  These shifts in thinking will pervade the publishing industry. 

If you’ve been toying with the idea of non-fiction, it might be a good time to jump on this bandwagon. 


  1. Glad to read that some of the K-1 classic non-fiction titles are being re-issued - the Aliki and Hurd - for example. There were a number of excellent titles in non-fiction series for that age group that have been OP for years.

  2. Great info, Julie. I'm thinking differently about next projects and new opportunities.