Young adult nonfiction is often ignored in schools. However, a number of reasons exist to make nonfiction part of the curriculum and to encourage recreational nonfiction reading.
Reading nonfiction helps adolescents develop information literacy. This is a much needed skill in modern society where students can no longer memorize everything in school that they will need to know as adults. Instead, they must develop the skills to locate, evaluate, and use information. In other words, they must become information literature. To do this, adolescents need the ability to:
- see the parts within the whole and their relationship,
- solve problems and think analytically,
- work in groups and communicate with others, and
- work independently and assume responsibility (Benson, 2002).
To help adolescents become information literate, educators must use reading and writing strategies and critical thinking skills that focus on nonfiction. For example, in nonfiction, adolescents find tables, charts, graphic organizers, maps, drawings, diagrams, timelines, and other visual representations of information. To survive in contemporary society, adolescents need to develop the skills and abilities to decode the information found in these visuals. Also, Hadaway, Vardell, and Young (2002) argue that, although most educators use fiction in the classroom, high-stakes tests contain more nonfiction than fiction passages for students to read and analyze. Suggestions for Collaborative Efforts 8–3 discusses information literacy, science teachers, and library media specialists.
Several studies have found a link between the reading of nonfiction and the development of literacy skills. Generally, students who read magazines and nonfiction books have higher average reading proficiencies than those who do not (Campbell, Kapinus, & Beatty, 1995). Also, nonfiction that presents concepts and vocabulary in a concrete way can help teach literary skills and can provide a bridge to textbooks for non-native as well as native English speakers (Hadaway, Vardell, & Young, 2002).
There are still other benefits of using nonfiction with young adults. Nonfiction:
- helps adolescents learn and understand content-related vocabulary,
- provides current information in a more interesting way than textbooks,
- may be more appealing visually than a textbook (Hadaway, Vardell, & Young, 2002),
- is effective in moving adolescents from the Internet to the library (Jones, 2001),
- generally has a clear focus in less than 200 pages, and
- can provide a pleasurable reading experience.
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