Okay, so if you’re anything like me, this is a much anticipated time of year. That’s right–the discovery of the book award winners. I’m not going to go so far as to say it’s equivalent to Christmas morning for ten-year-old me, but forty-something-year-old librarian me gets pretty darn excited. I can hardly wait to check the lists and see which titles are already on the shelf. ‘ Not there? ‘ No worries. ‘ I quickly check my book order wish lists and see if I’ve got them in the cue. ‘ I don’t mean to brag (grin), but in 2008 I actually had ALL of the Newbery winners in my collection! ‘ Can you imagine my delight? ‘ I felt like I won my own little lottery. ‘ Okay, but what happens after that? ‘ Once you’ve finished basking in the glow of anticipating the impossible (which books will win) or are wrinkling your head over ‘ lists of books that you’ve never heard of (dispite pouring over journals, blogs and reviews), what happens next? ‘ Having the books in the collection is only part of the process. ‘ Step 1) build a great collection. ‘ Step 2) get collection circulating. ‘ Is it just me or does it seem like moving non-fiction has its own special challenges? ‘ I was excited to write this post because it forced me to think (again) about ways to get this special part of the library’s collection into the hands of students.

I am diligent about updating displays and mindful about sprinkling in non-fiction in my booktalks. ‘ I even have a few teachers that invite me their classrooms for booktalks on curricular topics. ‘ But I still think there could be more. ‘ I think part of the reason there has been a dip in non-fiction circulation is the internet.

‘  For example, students doing research within inches of print material in my library are quick to search for information online instead of browsing the stacks.

What’s a librarian to do? ‘ If I acknowledge that fiction circulation is higher than non-fiction circulation (at least in my library) then how can I use this to my advantage? ‘ This is what I came up with:

Non-fiction/Fiction book pairs.

My pitch for reading teachers is a unit where students read a pair of books. ‘ One non-fiction and one fiction (here’s where the librarians get to be creative with their book knowledge). ‘ Students then use the non-fiction information to fact check information’ embedded’ into a work of fiction. ‘ This gets students reading in two styles (perfect for core standards) and forces students to use higher level thinking skills.

But what about circulation outside of an assignment? ‘ A few years ago I had a lovely practicum student, Alicia Wiechert. ‘ We discussed increasing passive reader’s advisory and she developed these amazing read-alike folders for her semester project. ‘ On the front of the file folder is the picture of a popular title (like Hunger Games) and inside are a series of note cards profiling similar books (title image and book blurb) that students can flip through. ‘ I was on my way home from work the other day thinking about this post when it occurred to me that I could use this idea for my non-fiction/fiction pairs. ‘ I would use the same format, but instead of read alikes I would put a pair of books on each notecard. ‘ Non-fiction on one side and its fictional counterpart on the flip side.

A series of laminated note cards

A series of laminated notecards secured at the top with tape and organized like a waterfall down the inside of the folder

Recommended fiction pair on the back

Here are the books I paired with the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults:

The Notorious Benedict Arnold by Steven Sheinkin and Finishing Beccaby Ann Rinaldi
Sugar Changed the World’ by Mark Aronson and’ Taste of Salt by Frances Temple
Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition’ by Karen Blumenthal and ‘ Black Duck’ by Janet Taylor Lisle
Wheels of Change’ by Sue Macy and’ Bread and Roses Too’ by Katherine Patterson
Music Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein’ by Susan Goldman Rubin and’ The Sky is Everywhere’ by Jandy Nelson
Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing’ by Ann Angel and’ Jimi & Me’ by Jaime Adoff
They Called Themselves the KKK’ by Susan Campbell Bartoletti and’ Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry’ by Mildred D. Taylor
Spies of Mississippi: The True Story of the Spy Network that Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement’ by Rick Bowers and’ The Rock and the River’ by Kekla Magoon
The Dark Game: True Spy Stories’ by Paul B. Janeczko and’ Stormbreaker’ by Anthony Horowitz
Every Bone Tells a Story:’  Hominin Descoveries, Deductions and Debates’ by’ Rubalcaba, Jill and’ The Christopher Killer’ by Alane Ferguson
Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith’ by Deborah Heiligman and’ The Danger Box‘ by Blue Balliett
Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream’ by Tanya Lee Stone and’ Taking Off’ by Jenny Moss
The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P.T. Barnum’ by Candice Fleming and’ The Night Circus’ by Erin Morgenstern
Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland’ by Sally M. Walker and’ Pocahontas’ by Joseph Bruchac

The great thing about this format is the pairings are flexible and the cards are simple to make and update in a flash.

Happy non-fiction reading!

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