One of the products I helped write for Lakeshore Learning last year just came out. These were nonfiction articles that they redid to fit the Common Core Standards. My job was to write 4 new article cards and rewrite every question on all cards in this box to correspond to a Common Core reading standard. Whew!
The reason why I'm sharing this isn't to brag. I want to apply it to my/your writing of a nonfiction book. A few weeks ago when I interviewed one of the descendants for my picture book biography, the lady just happened to be a substitute teacher. And she mentioned how great it would be to use a primary document in the book. Perfect, I thought. That would get teachers' and editors' attention. Why? Because one of the standards says kids need to compare and contrast a firsthand and secondhand account of the same event or topic. And in my story, I do have a firsthand account from my subject's journals.
Also, I just read about a nonfiction book from a major publisher that was written years ago that wasn't selling very well. As soon as the publisher connected it with Common Core Standards, it began selling like hotcakes. (Ok, maybe not that fast, but the book is no longer in danger of being discontinued.)
So I was thinking...what other standards should we keep in mind as we write? Below I'll list some in easy jargon. But remember that the first thing you want to do is create a wonderful story. When you edit and revise, you can check your story for possible ways it might fit curriculum.
Reading Standards for Informational Text (You can click this link if you want to see each grade's informational text standards. Just click on the grade you want to check.)
* Kids will compare and contrast firsthand and secondhand accounts of the same event or topic. Do you have any primary sources in your story?
* Kids will interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively in charts, graphs, diagrams, and timelines. Do you have any of these elements? Especially for biography writers, you could add a simple timeline, another way to add extra information that won't fit into the main story.
* Kids will explain how an author (that's you!) uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text. So if you say your subject was always dreaming, or your subject was irresponsible...do you have good evidence to support your statement? Here's a way to use the rule of 3's for picture books. Give 3 pieces of evidence.
* Kids will explain events in a historical or scientific text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text. Will kids understand your words and be so excited they can restate what happened? I've read accounts of parents who are baffled by the knowledge their children pick up from books. We want these kids to be passionate about our topics!
* Kids will describe the structure that YOU used to write the story. Is your story written using chronology (birth to death), comparison and contrast of two people/groups/things, cause and effect, or problem and solution?
Okay, those are just some of the standards, not a representative of all of kindergarten - 5th grade. So as you read nonfiction books this week, think about how the books fit some of these standards. And as you work on your stories, do you have any of these elements that you could mention to your editor or agent, if they asked? So according to the title of this post, it looks like the CC wins--with our current market, it's helping books get published and noticed.
Tina M. Cho, children's author
I'm a children's author and freelance writer for the educational market. Welcome!