I’ve heard Georgia Heard speak and read many of her books – she ALWAYS inspires me. This is her newest book and it addresses teaching students how to read like and be authors of nonfiction. I would say this professional text is geared towards teachers who have experience teaching nonfiction writing and use a writer’s workshop model for teaching. It doesn’t give you a day-by-day “this is how to,” but, like all of Heard’s books, immerses you in thinking about the craft of high quality authors. It assumes that you have some grasp of how to help students do research and gather content they can draw from while writing – in other words, this is not addressed.
If you know how to help your intermediate/middle grade students gather facts/data on a topic and are looking for specific leads, endings, types of details and ways to turn facts into scenes, Heard provides guidance. She gives examples of excerpts from trade books by authors you’ll recognize (Nic Bishop, Sally M. Walker, Kadir Nelson, etc.) and provides discussion points for instruction. I would say her primary focus is on informative/explanatory and literary nonfiction. She does not address argument.
There are points in the book that I disagree with, but aren’t there in every book I read???? I would not institute a “nonfiction Monday” where you teach nonfiction writing once a week. I don’t think students can get a strong grasp on anything addressed once a week for 50 minutes. I thought Part 2 of the book was stronger than Part 1 (which included writing samples that were fiction or focused on responding to fiction).
The best part of this book for me is how Heard reveals the passion of nonfiction writers…and this is what we want for our students, right? My favorite quote (of all the author quotes she included) –
Ultimately, the product that any writer has to sell is not the subject being written about, but who he or she is. I often find myself reading with interest a topic I never thought would interest me….What holds me is the enthusiasm of the writer for his field.
This is the personal transaction that’s at the heart of good nonfiction writing…humanity and warmth. Good writing has an aliveness that keeps the reader reading from one paragraph to the next. It’s a question of using the English language in a way that will achieve the greatest clarity and strength. (On Writing Well, Zinsser, 2006, 5; emphasis added) (quoted in Heard, 2013, p. 14).
If you are looking for your own inspiration, as we pursue writing more and more nonfiction texts with students, you might pick up a copy of this book just for you.