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Common Core: the Breakdown

Post by Beth Gerall
Posted July 24, 2013 in Kids & Book News, NoveList K-8 Plus

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'Common Core' has become a phrase familiar to those in school and public libraries. Kathy Stewart sat down with Beth Gerall, a former teacher-librarian, now NoveList's Juvenile Content Lead, to talk about the 'so-what' of Common Core. 

Q: Public and school librarians are asking, "How will Common Core affect my work?"

A: Librarians are central in helping kids, parents and teachers locate quality nonfiction. We are deep in the book and information world and can help patrons find the kinds of books that will grab a reader’s interest and have them come back for another book. So when a patron comes in and asks for a “Common Core” book, you will want to ask what they want to read, what interests them, what they liked about the last book they read – in other words, you will be a librarian and handle it as a readers’ advisory question. For more specifics on the ins and outs of the CCSS, don't miss Common Core: Negotiating the Nonfiction Landscape.

Q: Is there a silver lining here, in terms of Common Core's focus on nonfiction?

A: Yes. This is an opportunity to engage with readers who prefer nonfiction and to help them find other books they may be interested in reading. Many boys prefer nonfiction; this seems to be one more way to hand those readers an engaging book. For a reader who is looking for action, adventure and tension, instead of a mystery story, offer The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs by Sandra Markle or Lucy Long Ago by Catherine Thimmesh.

(Want to learn how to easily find good nonfiction kids will love? Check out "Nabbing Readers: Choosing Nonfiction Kids will Love." )

Q: How can librarians find good nonfiction in an ongoing way?

A: Award-winning nonfiction books are an effectve starting point. The Robert F. Sibert Award is presented for the most distinguished informational book annually; also, the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award recognizes stellar nonfiction titles for a range of young readers. Be sure to check out Nonfiction Monday, with a focus on great NF reads from a variety of children's literature bloggers from the Kidlitosphere community. NoveList also has specific content to help:

  • Common Core Connections. These short guides were developed with Common Core State Standards in mind. Each one focuses on 3 nonfiction titles (with annotations), and offers two standards‐based questions per book and one question comparing 2 or more of the books. The relevant Common Core standard is cited for each question. Each one includes recommendations for supplemental titles.
  • Common Core Supplemental List. We're compiling these subject-based, fiction and nonfiction book lists for grades K-7 as a joint project between EBSCO Core Collections Librarians (formerly H.W. Wilson) and NoveList librarians.
  • Title recommendations. You'll find read-alike suggestions in NoveList-- for example, if a reader enjoyed The Impossible Rescue by Martin Sandler, he might also like Trapped by Mark Aronson, matched because they are both compelling, narrative nonfiction books with detailed accounts of survival and rescue and filled with photographs.
  • Searches can help to find great nonfiction. Combine subjects and/or genres with appeal terms in NoveList to locate satisfying nonfiction books. 


"I'm looking for..."

  • "Science." Choose Subject from the drop-down menu.
  • "Photographic." Choose Appeal Factor from the drop-down menu.
  • Limit to nonfiction.
  • Limit to desired audience level. 

Narrow broad search results by Tone, Subject, or Illustration Terms

Examples of more searches:

  • "History." Choose Subject from drop-down menu.
  • "Cartoony." Choose Appeal Factor from drop-down menu.
  • Limit to desired audience level.
  • Limit to nonfiction. 
  • "Mystery." Choose Genre from drop-down menu.
  • "Action-packed." Choose Appeal Factor from drop-down menu.
  • Limit to desired audience level. 
  • Results include suggestions for series/authors. 

Beth Gerall, NoveList Juvenile Content LEad, has more than 18 years of library experience, mostly as a public school teacher-librarian. An avid reader (everything from picture books to young adult fiction), she served on the 2008 USBBY Outstanding International Books Committee and ALA's Notable Children's Books Committee (2010, 2011).