In 2013, we wrote a blog post about how to evaluate nonfiction. The original post was based on a session we presented to librarians in our state and was in response to a new interest in nonfiction books after the release of the Common Core State Standards.
Ten years later, we have updated our tips for evaluating nonfiction. We hope to provide insight into what we look for when we read nonfiction for children based on our experience reviewing nonfiction books and serving on awards committees. These are some of the features we consider when reading and reviewing nonfiction books for children.
What is the format of book?
What is the type of book?
Concept – teaches a concept or idea
Specialized – explores a topic on a deeper level
Biography/Memoir – insight into a person's life
How-To – gives directions
Who is the author?
- Does the author have expertise or experience in this area?
- How did the author research the book?- Interviews, travel, readings, etc...
How do visual elements enhance the story and convey information?
What is the writing style?
- Who is the target audience?
- What is the age range of the audience?
- How could this book be read with children: in a school setting, library story time, bedtime, pleasure reading, research?
Design and Layout of the Book
- How do the text and visuals work together?
- Where are the text and visuals placed on the page?
- Are there supporting features such as sidebars, captions and labels?
Presentation of Information
- How do the author and illustrator present the information to children?
- Is the information presented in a specific way (chronological, problem/solution, etc...)?
- Is there dialogue? If so, are there source notes that indicate the source of the quotes?
- If dialogue is invented? This may indicate the book is fiction and not a nonfiction book.
- Is there an author's note?
- Is there an illustrator's note?
- Are there source notes and/or a bibliography?
- Is there a timeline?
- Are there resources for further reading or research?
- What other information about the topic is shared?