In reading a chapter for Literature for Young Adults on nonfiction, I realized that I didn’t often seek out nonfiction. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t read nonfiction. Actually, I read it all the time. I’d guess that anyone under the age of 30 reads tons of it online every day. We read tutorials on e-how, consult forums to troubleshoot our computers when something goes awry, and explore mini-essays on art and politics that masquerade as blog posts. While this chapter seemed to focus on how students and teachers need to read more nonfiction, I think it missed the fact that it already happens. The only difference is that we don’t go to books for our nonfiction needs as often anymore.
I don’t really know if this is a good or a bad thing. On the one hand, materials that are published physically often go through a more strenuous process of editing. This ensures that the information is correct and offers a kind of quality control. But on the other hand, online nonfiction works offer a lot that their printed counter parts do not. As the chapter mentions, nonfiction books can quickly become outdated–information posted online is frequently added to and updated. Furthermore, using the internet to “publish” nonfiction is a way that empowers everyone. It sends a message that anyone who accesses information and has the discipline to write about it (either giving facts, narrative, or opinion) can do so, and reach an audience.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t consult books for our nonfiction needs, but I do believe that we need to recognize other sources as legitimate and important. That being said, I want to turn this over to you: do you think that teachers should encourage nonfiction books over online nonfiction sources in the classroom? How would you get your students to think about what they read online and out in the world as nonfiction? I’m interested to see what you think, so leave a reply in the comments!