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How to publish for the CCSS

Ha ha, not really.

I hope everybody is getting some use out of our latest newsletter, Nonfiction Notes from the Horn Book. I’ve been thinking about NF a lot since ALA, where I spent two solid days talking to publishers about what they were planning for the coming year(s). Along with inflicting upon the world way too many books about bullying, they are more justifiably concerned with how to respond to the new Common Core State Standards. Should they be publishing more nonfiction? More teacher guides? How can they convince the lazier and/or busier and/or confused schools that the “exemplary texts” appended to the standards are, just as they say, examples, not required reading?

The thing is that aside from making sure they are publishing a healthy amount of nonfiction (because the CCSS require a lot of nonfiction reading), publishers aren’t really the target here. Teachers (and the librarians who support them) are. If you read the CCSS, you will see that its directives aren’t so much about what kids should read but how they should read. Even when I read the CCSS’s “Publishers’ Criteria” [PDF], I see an awful lot of verbose waffling (“texts” [ed. note: GROSS] should be short except when they’re long; texts should be difficult except when they’re not) without any real guidance.

The CCSS themselves offer exciting opportunities, no question. I would really enjoy, for example, asking kids to “compare and contrast a firsthand and secondhand account of the same event or topic; describe the differences in focus and the information provided” But that’s a job for the classroom and the library, not a publishing house. Unless, and again GROSS, you decide the world really needs a new series called FirstHand/SecondHand that saves time for the teacher at the expense of the library’s budget. Shoot me now.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    I cannot and will not use the word “text” to refer to books. We need good books. Good fiction books. Good nonfiction books. Good books of poetry.

  2. Jamie Schildknecht says:

    That’s the point, though. They’re not only referring to books. Texts can be magazine, journals and newspapers. We could read a pioneer’s journal entries or letters home. Or selected pages of the rolls at Ellis Island. You know, texts.

  3. Robin Smith says:

    I see your point. A little.
    And actually, I would call those things by their real names: journals, articles, diaries.
    The word “texts” when used in classrooms sucks the life out of reading and has the stale air of jargon. I am tired of it. That’s all.

  4. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    Jamie’s right–the CCSS encourage teachers to use a wide variety of media, so “texts” is the best all-purpose word. If you have to use just one. Which they do, over and over. (Book reviewers have the same problem with the word “book,” which is why you will sometimes find the gawdawful “tome” in the midst of otherwise practical prose.

    I DO worry that the t-word and repeated emphasis on the use of short, dense readings heralds a return of the SRA box.

  5. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    Shudder. How I ever learned to love to read after racing through SRA in grade five I’ll never know.
    There are lots of things to love about the CC, but seeing those little blurbs about how this picture book or that poetry book fulfills a CC standard makes my skin crawl.

    I don’t think I have ever used the word “tome” in a review. Doesn’t work too well with picture books, thank goodness.

  6. Lolly Robinson Lolly Robinson says:

    Another issue I came across with my children’s lit students this fall was that there’s a lot of confusion about the difference between “nonfiction,” “information book,” and “informational text.” For the first time, I had a few students say they would not use books that had a narrative flow because it could be confusing. And I should note that a couple of these were experienced elementary school teachers. There’s a lot of information online from seemingly reputable sources that indicates that “informational text” should be illustrated with photos rather than illustrations.

  7. Maeve VIsser Knoth says:

    So Lolly’s students would not be able share “informational texts” about, say, Ancient Greece, since they would not necessarily be illustrated with photographs? Aaah!

    One thing I am hopeful about- maybe with CC teachers will be encouraged to use all our fabulous picture book biographies. In my experience, these books are often overlooked because they are not obviously suited for reports. Nor do they live in the picture book collections where they might be chosen as read-alouds.

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