Focus on Quality Content for the Classroom at 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference

Sally Isaacs, Co-chair, 21st Century Children's Nonfiction Conference, spoke with the AAP PreK-12 Learning Group about the conference and why education has become an integral theme of the event.

How is education represented at the conference, and why is it important?

This conference is a unique opportunity for everyone involved in children’s nonfiction – publishers, writers, illustrators, librarians, and teachers -- to talk about what teachers need and what publishers and digital developers can produce in order to meet these needs. These needs include meeting educational initiatives such as STEM, STEAM, NGSS, Common Core, and the C3 Framework.

For example, Cyndi Giorgis will make a Sunday morning presentation on the importance of nonfiction in building literacy and preparing for careers. She is a professor of children’s and young adult literature and serves as Dean of the College of Education at the University of Texas at El Paso. She has served on the Caldecott, Newbery, and Geisel Award committees and currently chairs the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children.

She will also lead a workshop with award-winning author Candace Fleming on “What Writers and Educators Can Learn From One Another.”

What are some of the key issues that session will address? How have the new education standards and requirements impacted non-fiction writers – both in terms of content and opportunity? 

According to Cyndi Giorgis: "One of the key issues addressed in this conference session is how to write for the child audience in a way that encourages, expands, and challenges thinking about a variety of topics. And in turn, we will share strategies to use in which these books meet the standards as they come alive through reading aloud, whole and small group discussions, open-ended questioning, and meaningful response strategies.

"The adoption and implementation of the Common Core and other state standards have offered educators an opportunity to explore nonfiction with students as these books expand vocabulary, contain a variety of text features, and prompt readers to delve deeper into the who, what, where, when, and why of scientific ideas and concepts as well as historical events. Children have always loved nonfiction, especially those books that are written and illustrated in a way that demonstrates respect for the reader and for the content."

You also have a session on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) – what has been the biggest challenge in that area?

The president of the National Science Teachers Association, Carolyn Hayes, will present the session on NGSS; we feel fortunate to have her insights on this. The NGSS provide a statement of the skills to teach but not the content or materials to use. The challenge is for authors, editors, and publishers to create a content-based science program that folds in the required skills in a way that is interesting and motivating to children and teachers.

Other sessions touch on areas specific to digital publishing, like innovation, privacy, and effective multimedia, which are similar issues in the overall educational resource market. Tell me a bit about the growth and direction of digital non-fiction content and where it’s headed.

For many publishers, “digital” is the Great Unknown. The digital possibilities are ever changing, and publishers are trying to answer important questions: Should a digital product start with already published content, or does it need to be new content? Does it need to be interactive? Does it help children learn?

Publishers, authors, librarians, and teachers -- anyone who provides digital contact, will be interested in hearing Linette Attai talk about compliance with standards and regulations regarding privacy, safety, and security. She has over 20 years of experience in the compliance industry and served as a compliance executive with CBS and Nickelodeon. 

We will learn more in a session called “Today’s Educational Innovations in Nonfiction.” It is presented by two people on the cutting edge. Monica Burns is an EdTech and curriculum consultant and Apple Distinguished Educator. Abran Maldonado is the founder of NuSkool, Inc., which addresses the needs of underserved youth using a fusion of entertainment and education through professional development, student enrichment and educational research. Monica and Abran will present a  survey of what is going on in teacher training colleges and in classrooms, including virtual school visits, digital teaching and learning, blended learning, makerspaces, and educational games.

What are the key takeaways from the conference for those working in the education space (librarians, publishers, and teachers)?

There are three important takeaways for those in the education space. First, they will gain knowledge from publishers, authors, and digital developers who are currently rising to the challenge of new initiatives and new vehicles for reaching their markets.

Second, the conference provides a unique opportunity for cross-industry conversations. People in publishing, education, and digital development will step outside their narrow focus and join conversations about new directions.

Third, attendees will come away from the conference with connections to people they might not otherwise meet – people who can help one another move forward.

The 21st Century Children's Nonfiction Conference (21CNFC) is a unique conference that highlights what's new in children's nonfiction publishing and much more. The conference provides a meeting place and forum for publishers, book packagers, development houses, and digital developers to exchange ideas and establish new business models and ways of delivering nonfiction products that excite and educate a young audience. This is also a place for teachers, librarians, publishers, and writers to explore how nonfiction print and digital products are created and can be used in creative and inventive ways as part of the Common Core, NGSS, and other educational initiatives.

Linda Swank, Program Manager for the AAP PreK-12 Learning Group, will be part of a panel presentation on Book Awards on Saturday, June 11 at the conference.


Digital Issues
Educational Standards