The Common Core Standards are Here: Time to Incorporate More Children’s Literature in Classrooms

This coming school year, teachers around the United States will begin implementing new teaching standards: The Common Core State Standards. The Common Core State Standards are a consistent, national set of standards for teaching language arts and math to kindergarten through 12th grade students. Forty-five states have adopted these standards and will begin implementing them sometime between 2013 and 2016.

Common Core State Standards

The main goal of the Common Core language arts standards is to promote literacy. Research has shown that language arts instruction in the United States is deficient in two ways:

1) Students are not becoming proficient in reading and understanding “informational texts” (i.e. nonfiction), and

2) Students are not being exposed to sufficiently complex reading material.

To address these deficiencies, the Common Core standards require teachers to incorporate more informational texts and more complex reading material into the curriculum.

In short, claims Christopher Harris, coordinator of New York’s Genesee Valley school library system and School Library Journal columnist…

The textbook is dead.

While some textbooks may wander your school halls like zombies for the next couple of years, make no mistake…the textbook as we know it is dead. Common Core calls for shorter, well-crafted texts that kids can consider more deeply. The focus is on primary (or maybe secondary) sources, not the predigested tertiary writing found in many of today’s textbooks.

Christopher Harris, School Library Journal (March 16, 2012)

As a huge fan of nonfiction children’s literature, the prospect of teachers around the country throwing away their textbooks and replacing them with nonfiction picture books strikes me as both scary and exciting. On one hand, I fear that teachers will replace textbooks with poorly written nonfiction books. I fear that publishers will begin churning out poorly written nonfiction books to meet the demand created by the Common Core.

On the other hand, I envision teachers — with the help of school librarians — incorporating more excellent nonfiction books into their lesson plans. I envision students reading books that make subjects ranging from birds to maps to the Revolutionary War come alive for them in ways that textbooks have not.

I am devoting this week to helping teachers find excellent nonfiction books to incorporate into their lesson plans.

This week’s posts will help you find:

  • High quality nonfiction books.
  • A variety of informational texts and narrative texts.*
  • Books that are the right complexity for your students.

Day 1. Introduction: The Common Core Standards are Here

Day 2. Common Core Science Texts

Day 3. Common Core Social Studies Texts

I hope that the Common Core State Standards will succeed in inspiring teachers to incorporate more excellent children’s literature into classrooms.

Read More About the Common Core State Standards:

These articles and key Common Core State Standards provisions provide a good introduction to the standards.

Aronson, M. and Bartle, S. (2012, November). Wondering how to put common core into practice? It’s easier than you think. School Library Journal. 58(11): 28-31.

Zarnowski, M. (2012, November). Nonfiction series and the Common Core State Standards. School Library Journal. 72.

Aronson, M., Cappiello, M.A., & Zarnowski, M. (2013, January). Deconstructing nonfiction | On Common Core. School Library Journal.

Common Core State Standards –> English Language Arts Standards –> How to Read the Standards

Common Core State Standards: Standard 10 – Range of Text Types for K-5

Common Core State Standards: Appendix A – Research Supporting Key Elements of the Standards

*A Couple New Terms:

informational texts – Books written for the purpose of informing (i.e. nonfiction books). Informational texts have an expository style and no narrative arc.

narrative texts – Books written for the purpose of informing (i.e. nonfiction books). Narrative texts have a narrative arc with a beginning, middle and end.

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