One of the recurring themes in this blog is going to be non fiction. As National Non Fiction Day becomes a mainstable in the children’s book world and as non fiction, it’s authors and illustrators gain further recognition for their work I am going to be looking more and more at how non fiction can teach us a thing or two about so many different things. One of these is most definitely how we go about giving information. Over the years non fiction has moved on from the stuffy textbooks of my and probably your past to know some of the most creative, inventive ways of giving information.
One criticism of non fiction, and it came up at the panel I was speaking at at the London Book Fair is that non fiction lacks creativity. For me the creativity is not in the information but in how it is expressed and given over to the audience. In some cases the information itself is interesting, for instance Fredrick the Great of Prussia had a thing for tall soldiers and hired a whole army called the Potsdam army of soldiers all over 7ft to walk around his bedroom when he was ill. But other times the information is dry and not as interesting but the creativity and craft of the non fic author and illustrator is to make this interesting, to make it valuable and to make it something that we want to know.
This is why I feel schools could learn a lot from this way of thinking. Education’s bread and butter is facts and information no matter what subject but its how you go about giving these facts that matter. The curriculum has a lot to answer for and when teachers are told to take risks it always makes me laugh as actually what they are saying is ‘think outside this small box, but not too much cause these’s a bigger one just outside you need to stay in’. When given freedom schools can be places of learning and not just of telling but if we take a leaf out of non fiction’s book and release ourselves reinvent our purpose we can certainly inprove the learning of our students.
I’ve recently been doing some work for Civitas who are the Institute for the Study of Civil Society and a think tank in the education arena. We have been translating an American resource book into the English curriculum for parents and teachers of KS1 children. It’s been great fun getting back to the books that I used to spend so much time with. Enjoying picture books again and remembering how they were used to great effect in the teaching process.
We started off with Yr1 and are planning on moving through the ages up to Yr6 looking at all the different types of resources to meet certain curriculum areas. The most enjoyable parts have really been just enjoying the books, like I said again. Looking through them and engaging with them. There really are some amazing classics but just as equally some great new stuff out there. One particular special was looking through all the different Aesops that reminded me of all the different book talks. The Martha Lightfoot version was one of my favourites along with the the Emma Chichester Clark one which gave a completely different view with her artistic style.
It’s certainly been a great thing to do and I’m definitely looking forward to tackling Yr2 and looking back over some more of the great books of my past!!
The #fedbkgrp is an online twitter book forum chatting about children’s books. It happens once every other sunday between 8pm-9pm and covers all sorts of talk about children’s books and the children’s book world.
The reason I set the forum up was as a way for people to talk in a short quick way about the books they were enoying/ have enjoyed, recommend titles and also talk about book awards and their shortlists. Twitter provides a great forum for this enabling us to give our thoughts in a short snappy way.
We have met new ‘friends’ that frequent the chat but also welcome new people every time we run it. To take part all you need to do is use the hashtag #fedbkgrp and post your comments. If you want to set up a twitter search you can read all our posts. We also create a booklist and record our chat after each session so people can keep up with all the books mentioned.
Why not pop along and see what we get up to! The next chat is this sunday 8pm-9pm (1st May 2011)
As one of the ways to celebrate National Non Fiction Day and provide resources for all those who enjoy non fiction, or want to get into it I have been working on a booklist of all the best best non fic books around at the moment. Although the list is not exhaistive (there is so much great stuff out there!) I hope that it gives a good flavour of what great stuff there is available.
It was a great joy to put the list together and basically spend a load of time reading books, which you certainly can’t complain about! Some publishers are notorious for creating visually stunning books, for instance Templar books are always wonderful to look at and give information in such a creative way they immediately draw you in. The best example of this has to be their ‘How the World Works’ book which I haven’t stopped raving about since I first saw it.
Other publishers as well though create just as amazing books, Scholastic and all their Horribles (and Murderous Maths, Kjartan Poskitt is the king of funny non-fic), but also smaller non fic publishers such as Quercus have books on their lists that are great too. ‘Who am I’ is an excellent book for young people interested in finding out about their family trees.
The leaflet is below but you can also get hard copies by visiting our website www.fcbg.org and requesting some. I hope it is a good resource hghlighting some wonderful books.
Non Fiction Leaflet
Well, it’s been a long time coming. I’ve been meaning to set up another blog for a long long time. Not because I particularly have a lot to say but because I come across so much in my line of work and also through working with the Federation that it seems a shame not to write it all down! I hope that there are some people that will find this interesting but if nothing else it will actually help my awful memory remember what it is I have actually done!