"National Non-Fiction Day was created by Scholastic to mark how significant and important non-fiction books are for the development and retention of intellectual and cultural heritage of learning for children. Through reading non-fiction, children can find a way to open the door on a lifetime of reading and writing."
Primary Times (or, rather, from the press release they have reproduced pretty much verbatim. Let's hope that wasn't written by someone who hopes to write for children; parents and teachers might possibly be able to prise some meaning out of it.)
Quite apart from that being really, really badly written...if NNFD is marking how important non-fiction books are for children (which is not in dispute) why does no-one hear anything about it? This is such a shame, such a wasted opportunity! Non-fiction is a gateway drug to further reading, to knowledge, to loving learning, to fiction.
Good non-fiction gets children marvelling at the wonders of the world, history, the universe. It makes them want to learn, want to read. Yet non-fiction is treated as the poor relation of fiction. Parents and teachers who wail that boys don't read usually mean they don't read fiction - many are happy to read factual books. So let's celebrate them, make them available and encourage children who like to read them. Reading for pleasure doesn't have to mean reading fiction. All fiction is, after all, sparked by the truth - non-fiction.
National Non-Fiction Day was launched in 2010 by the Federation of Children's Book Groups and Scholastic, a highly respected publisher with an extensive list of children's non-fiction. That first year, it was not large but it had more events and featured book than this year. The website then announced that NNFD 'aims to celebrate all that is brilliant about non-fiction and to highlight that it is not just fiction that can be read for pleasure.' Good stuff - shame it's not really happened.
The NNFD website now redirects to the site of a tiny publisher called What on Earth Books, which appears only to produce 'wall books' by Chris Lloyd, its 'founder and CEO'. These look quite jolly, though I've never seen one so can't give any useful verdict. Lloyd has previously published two books with Bloomsbury - there's no suggestion that he's not a real writer. But he's hardly the whole world of children's non-fiction publishing! (I put no store by Amazon reviews, but will share this review of one of his Bloomsbury titles just because it's obviously written by an idiot - the writer gave the book five stars and then said it 'will not fail to disappoint.' Erm. With good reviews like that, who needs bad reviews?)
I did comment on the blog for NNFD trying to find out why the day seems to have gone AWOL, but the comment failed moderation and I've had no email response. I can only conclude, sadly, that NNFD is really NOT going to raise the profile of non-fiction one jot. Indeed, it does it a massive disservice with its badly written publicity materials and its promotion of just one trio of self-published books by a single author. Perhaps I shouldn't have drawn attention to it at all, but it is such a shame that something which could have helped to turn children into enthusiastic readers has just become a national damp squib.
If any teachers or librarians DID know about the day, and DID do something to mark it, please do report back in the comments. I would love to think that someone is promoting the huge range of wonderful children's non-fiction books published in the UK.
Anne Rooney will be talking about writing children's non-fiction at the SCBWI annual conference in Winchester, 23rd November