Sunday 1 November 2020

WRITING FICTION; READING NON-FICTION: Two ways of celebrating November. By Penny Dolan


National Novel Writing Month - Wikipedia 

Hello! Today is the first of November, which many people know as the start of NANOWRIM0, or National Novel-Writing Month .

 Scribblers with dreams of writing or creating their own novel can sign up for NANOWRIMO's world-wide writing jamboree, give up a month of their social life (not that that is a difficulty right now) and settle down with pads of paper and/or well-charged laptops (with or without a plan) and put forth a regular daily word target. There are several sites offering online tips, chat and the support of being part of a crowd, all focused on the end of November's big writing goal: a rough first draft of a novel.

On the other hand, some writers create informal versions by linking up with a few writing friends to create their own personal writing support groups. (Here's Clare Fayer's ABBA post about a writing week.) They decide on relevant daily writing targets, which can vary from a simple personal word count to a certain number of pages edited etc, or offer the writing partner experience, when one checks in before writing and checking out afterwards, or whatever format fits. Of course, 2020 Nanowrimo's will probably take place at home rather than in a crowded library or a real-world coffee shop. If you're going for any of these NANOWRIMO versions, good wishes and good luck! 

However, today is also the start of an celebration begun in 2018 by the Federation Of Children's Book Groups: NATIONAL NON-FICTION NOVEMBER.


You can find out more about this year's theme and activities through this link.

As I idled through Twitter, someone asked "How can we celebrate National Non-Fiction November?" One of the responses (made jokingly, I do hope!) was something like "Bring out the bunting!" I wanted to shout "No, no, please don't!" Surely NNFN is about the books and all sorts of non-fiction reading provision, not decor and design and flags or even colour-coded books? 

To my mind, NNFM is about the selection of books on the library shelves and about creating the opportunities to read and be with non-fiction.  It is about making the many "fact books" available to children and young people, and about sharing and enjoying the diversity of non-fiction.

Franklin Watts and Wayland | Hachette UK

Non-fiction can be a powerful way of  encouraging young readers and for some. I'd suggest, non-fiction is the reading that matters. These are the children that find satisfaction in "knowing things", whether for a fact's own sake or for a practical purposes, for both - or even for offering possibilities and dreams

Besides, the best non-fiction books are designed to help the reader to learn: they offer facts within a structured order, they classify facts though the use of visual layouts, types of representation, font style consistency, page spreads and chapters. They take the (young) reader from particular, specific facts to universal concepts - or back again, over and over, deepening the child's confidence in learning. Facts can be found in diverse settings: in books, magazines, comics,web-sites, guides, maps, atlases and more.

Franklin Watts and Wayland | Hachette UK 

Additionally, non-fiction is not deeply overloaded with emotion. When life is hard, when reading is difficult, when school or family living has become tough, many children are coping with plenty of "feelings" already. They may not, for their own pleasure, need pathos or unreliable narrators or dramatic uncertainty. 

 Moreover, non-fiction writing is not overloaded with what one could call "literary tricks": with similes, metaphors, figures of speech, pathetic fallacies and other features that can complicate and confuse a young reader's enjoyment and understanding of reading. 

 I'm still puzzling all the intricacies of this one:Similes | English | KS1, KS2 

In my experience, what good non-fiction writing offers, especially to the struggling reader, are neutral, easy spaces. Even as narrative non-fiction, these pages are not emotionally demanding and the vocabulary tends to be specific to a certain subject matter or practical purpose. I am reminded of Billy learning to look after Kes, as well as other boys I've known learning to read through motorbike or football magazines.

City Animals : (Turquoise Non-fiction Early Reader ...

For many people, the novel is not a "holy" form nor is fiction the one and only. Right now, as well as a pile of novels, I need to have several non-fiction titles by my bed to see me through the most angst-ridden nights. Besides as a fiction writer, I know I depend on all sorts of fact sources for the details I need to support my small tent of words. Or even to spark an idea . . .  

Wouldn't it be great if 2020's National Non-Fiction November led to more sharing of non-fiction books with children? Or all sorts of non-fiction fitting into shared reading or class storytimes or alongside reading and  bedtime stories at home? Could that actually become a fact?

Penny Dolan 


Ps. Here on ABBA, you can find two non-fiction author: Anne  Rooney and Moira Butterfield. Do look out for their excellent posts. 



Lynne Benton said...

Interesting post, Penny - and I love your selection of nf books, especially "How to Build an Orchestra"!

Stroppy Author said...

Thank you, Penny. Non-fiction is as popular as fiction with children — but adults don't talk about, review, promote or read children's non-fiction. It's a scandalous neglect of half our young readers, devaluing their preference and, often, failing to endorse them even AS readers because they aren't reading made-up stories.