Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Reading Wildly: Realistic Fiction

This month for our Reading Wildly staff readers' advisory training, we discussed Realistic Fiction. This is a genre that some of our schools cover for book reports, and it can be one that's confusing to people (I've most often had it confused with Nonfiction by patrons). I define realistic fiction as a made up story that's based in reality; it could actually happen. No magic, no science fiction elements. Some might consider historical fiction a branch of realistic fiction, but for the purposes of our discussion, I asked my staff to stay away from historical fiction (a book set in a past historical time period or around a historical event).

We opened our discussion by talking about the article "Keeping It Real: How Realistic Does Realistic Fiction for Children Need to Be?" (link opens a PDF) by Barbara O'Connor (Language Arts, Vol. 87, No. 6, July 2010). The article discusses several elements of realistic fiction and how Barbara O'Connor deals with them as she's writing her books for young people. We talked about how fiction for young people needs to be a mirror and a window, both reflecting the life that children know and opening a window to how different lives are lived. We talked about the importance of realistic dialog and looking for dated language or dialog that doesn't seem natural. And we talked about the importance of finding the right book for the right child. Storylines in realistic fiction are as diverse as the children reading them, so it's important to find out what kind of reading experience a child is looking for.

As you can see, we had a diverse group of books to talk about this month, from funny to heart-wrenching and everywhere in between. These are the books my staff and I booktalked this month:
Next month, we'll be talking about books from popular series. You know the ones. The books that every kid is asking for but maybe you haven't read. Reading the books that kids are gravitating to will not only help you when performing readers' advisory, but it validates the choices kids are making. Yes, some of these popular series have more substance than others, but allowing kids a choice (and valuing their choices) is one way to help kids develop a love of reading.

What series are popular at your library?