National Non-Fiction November is all about celebrating the importance and diversity of information books available to children. In today’s post by Emily Lawrence, Development Editor in the OUP Home Learning division, and Sam Armstrong, Head of Home Learning, explain why it is important to offer high quality non-fiction books to our young readers.
We know that children are passionate about the world they live in and the world that they will inherit. They want to learn and understand it. This is where quality non-fiction plays a crucial part in young readers’ lives. However, quality non-fiction does have a tall ask in today’s digital landscape. It needs to inform, engage, empower, inspire, and create a world in its pages strong enough to beat the lure of just ‘googling it’, and all this in one small book.
Quality non-fiction needs to start with a topic intriguing enough to engage curious young minds. The topics covered in our Very Short Introductions for Curious Young Minds series are linked to the curriculum, hot topics, and the interests of today’s children. For example, we know that the topic of oceans is an evergreen one – there have been many books written on the subject over the years. Our oceans are vital and essential parts of our world, and with the progress of time, new information and issues need addressing. Very Short Introductions For Curious Young Minds – The Earth’s Immense Oceans introduces readers to our oceans to help them understand and learn their importance to the planet. And who knows, perhaps reading a book like this could inspire a future generation of potential marine biologists…
Nevertheless, for a book to make this type of dent in a young life, to stand up to the requirements of today’s young readers who have the internet to explore, it has to do something new, be something different and be all-round engaging. Below are examples of three crucial considerations we keep in mind when we are creating quality non-fiction at Oxford University Press to achieve this goal.
Firstly, non-fiction can be just as absorbing as fiction when it is written with passion and when you have the right author with the capability to inspire generations. The Earth’s Immense Oceans is authored by Isabel Thomas – a science writer and children’s author who has written more than 150 books for children. She’s honed the necessary ingredients needed to create curious reads for curious minds. She takes the reader on a wondrous journey, peeking into the depths of the oceans, unearthing new science, magnifying the wonders of biology, and linking our human experiences to it. Readers swiftly understand what makes up the oceans, how the seas impact whether we will have sun or rain tomorrow, that our deep blue provides us with valuable food and nutrients, and that the ocean stores most of the earth’s carbon. Passion and hooks to engage young readers ooze off every page.
It’s not just facts and interesting things to learn that are oozing off pages, The Earth’s Immense Oceans is interwoven with humour. Quality non-fiction not only informs but presents information in digestible and visual chunks that often have a tint of humour to them. The design needs to be clear yet compelling, colourful yet simple to process. Structured with comic strips, labels, hero panels, information panels, and humorous artwork, Oceans is engaging, enjoyable to read, easy to dip into, and a treasure trove of mind-boggling facts.
Finally, quality non-fiction must also be authoritative. The facts must be sound, and the voice trusted. This is a crucial part of Oxford University Press’s role as publisher – to take the passion and the information and the humour and give it that authoritative stamp. Our non-fiction development process is rigorous, it goes through several stages of consultancy, appropriate levelling and fine-tuning to get the best book into the hands of our young readers. In The Earth’s Immense Oceans, Thomas takes the readers on a path through undersea forests, passing by teeny phytoplankton that provide us with oxygen, and waving a swift hello to sailfish and swordfish who are the fastest animals in the sea, swimming even faster than a cheetah’s run – an intriguing expedition that can be enjoyed in safety knowing the best authors, consultants, experts, and minds have been at work. The journey of reading quality non-fiction begins long before the reader turns to the first page.
Non-fiction helps children to understand the world they live in, how it’s changed, is changing, and how they can be a part of it. It’s not just our oceans that these readers can learn about, there are plenty more worlds to discover. With twelve books in this series, children can journey from minute germs to the expansive universe, from climate change to artificial intelligence, from activism to energy, from myths and legends to our thunderous rainforests, from boggling data all the way to the complexities of our brains and the sweet sounds of music. Quality non-fiction has the potential to nurture musicians, scientists, historians, social advocates, and more.
All this to say, there very definitely remains a place for quality non-fiction publishing for young readers – when there is simply so much to know and find out, thee twelve books in this series are crafted and expertly curated to equip children with the information they need to discover and explore new passions.
Worlds are explored, knowledge is absorbed, horizons are broadened.
Thank you so much to Emily and Sam and the team at OUP for taking part in NNFN.
‘The Earth’s Immense Oceans’ (ISBN: 978-0192780324) is one of the Very Short Introductions for Curious Young Minds series, published by OUP.