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December 06, 2012

"What Should Children Read?"

This is exactly correct. But I strongly doubt high school and college English teachers will ever change.

As an English teacher and writer who traffics in factual prose, I’m with Mr. Coleman. In my experience, students need more exposure to nonfiction, less to help with reading skills, but as a model for their own essays and expository writing . . . 

What schools really need isn’t more nonfiction but better nonfiction, especially that which provides good models for student writing. Most students could use greater familiarity with what newspaper, magazine and book editors call “narrative nonfiction”: writing that tells a factual story, sometimes even a personal one, but also makes an argument and conveys information in vivid, effective ways.


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I've had quite enough of my students writing "narratives" in my budget, org theory, personnel, etc classes, thank you very much.

Teach them how to write clearly and concisely without needing to inject themselves needlessly into the work.

Ted Craig

My understanding is the standards require something even more heretical than having English teachers require non-fiction texts. It requires reading for non-English classes.


Non-fiction reading is good. The students need to read things that convey information that they must parse from the text. But menus? Train schedules? How about the Federalist Papers?

I see that this is in response to the "common core" but perhaps some discerning teachers can include real reading instead of some Obama speech.

I suppose we can dispose of the last 100 years of supposed "research" into education. I ran across the recommendation that students should read more non-fiction than fictional stories in a freshman rhetoric text book published in 1919. It only makes sense, as there is little critical thought, by design, required to go with the flow of a made up story compared to digesting non-fiction, which requires judgement and can be informed by other sources.


The Best American Essays are usually pretty good and the only "Best American" book series that I consistently buy. The idea that essays or non-fiction are not literary is absurd. A short recommended list is:
HL Menken (natch)
EB White
Christopher Hitchens

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