Characteristics of Good Nonfiction
You should evaluate informational books for young adults as carefully as you evaluate fiction. Just because a nonfiction book presents information does not mean that you should not examine its quality (Broderick, 1995; Jones, 1995) and its appeal to young adults including the writing ability of the author, her or his writing style, and the tone of the book. Fortunately, many nonfiction books have factual and unbiased material, clear photographs, and writing that reflects young adults’ reading levels and interests. Unfortunately, not all have these qualities. Thus, teachers and library media specialists must read reviewers’ critiques of nonfiction and engage in firsthand evaluation.
What qualities should you look for in evaluating nonfiction? Considerations for Selecting Young Adult Literature: Nonfiction outlines a few items that we believe are important to keep in mind when selecting nonfiction books. Obviously, accuracy and objectivity are of prime importance as is an unbiased perspective, (i.e., does the book present accurate representations of people with differing sexual orientations?). Nonfiction should not trivialize a subject. As Sullivan (2000) wonders, how can one book teach you everything you need to know about a topic (as some nonfiction books claim) in 100 pages or less? Important, too, is a style and organization that is appropriate to the content, appealing to young adults’ interests, and written on their reading levels. Because some authors write a number of informational books on different topics, it is necessary to look closely at their qualifications or at the amount of research that they have done. Also, examine the organizing features such as the index and glossary. Check the usefulness of the index by trying to locate information in the book and noting whether key topics and concepts are included in the index. Whether the illustrations are in color or black and white, they should be sharp and appropriately positioned on the pages. They should also accurately portray or extend the text, and have correct descriptive captions. Credits for the illustrations should be included. An appealing and compatible book design is important to attract readers. Even the shape of a nonfiction book is important, with short and thick books conveying the impression of serious information while tall and skinny books appeal to reluctant readers.
© ______ 2006, Allyn & Bacon, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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