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Talking about information books

informationbooksIn next week’s class, we’ll be talking about information books.

Things sure have changed since I was in elementary school. Instead of providing every fact known — or at least everything needed to write a report — information books nowadays aim to be as engaging as possible in order to get children interested in their subject. The idea is that it’s better to leave them wanting more and then provide a bibliography in the back of the book. I think this is a big improvement.

Three of the four books we’re reading do just that (Actual Size by Steve Jenkins; Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell; and Dave the Potter by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier) and the other (Look Up! by Anette LeBlanc Cate) gives lots and lots and lots of information, but still provides a bibliography at the end.

The other new development is that many new information books provide information on several levels, often using different typefaces. Actual Size has large type with bolded animal names, and the youngest children might want that text alone. Page by page, just name the animal. But there is also smaller print providing measurements since that’s really the idea behind this book: how big are these animals? Look Up! delivers its information four different ways: the most important facts and narrative in a regular serif text, goofy and anthropomorphised comments in handwritten word balloons, boxed facts in sans serif type, and brief hand-written facts and labels that give more specific information. The word balloons tend to be light and jokey, and I could imagine kids who aren’t sure if they will like this subject gravitating toward these during their first time through the book. If they are hooked, then they can go back and read the serif text, and maybe the labels and boxed facts as well.

Every year, I find my that some of my ed students hate this kind of delivery, finding it draining and overwhelming and fearing their students will dislike it, too. Others, particularly those who know kids with attention issues, love it. From what I’ve heard about the appeal of these books, children are more apt to be drawn to this style, as long as they are not being “made accountable for it.” In other words, these books are meant to be explored rather than conquered. Reading every single word is not a requirement. But if the subject grabs a kid, then he or she might go through the book a second, third, and even fourth time, reading and noticing more and more.

Please join us in discussing these books at the links above. We’re also reading three articles related to Dave the Potter‘s Coretta Scott King award. You can find the articles at the links below, but we’ll discuss them here.

Lolly Robinson About Lolly Robinson

Lolly Robinson is the creative director for The Horn Book, Inc. She has degrees in studio art and children's literature and teaches children's literature at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. She has served on the Caldecott and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committees and blogs for Calling Caldecott and Lolly's Classroom on this site.

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