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So, kind of like when a person finally gets a diagnosis – a name – for an illness, this is a great relief.

Sometimes I have had moments of doubt when trying to categorize my own books. Usually I call them nonfiction – they’re about real things. My nature/science (birds, bugs, snakes, and dinosaurs) and biography books fit snugly into the basic nonfiction category. But some others, for example the lift-the-flap paper-engineered books, like Go! Go! Go! (about transportation), Circus, Rodeo, and Doors (you learn about what’s in a doctor’s office, horse barn, boat, train, mechanic’s garage, space station, etc), are a little quirky and are occasionally even considered “novelty” books. They don’t fall neatly into the nonfiction category. And books like Market Maze and Ecomazes: 12 Earth Adventures use “gamification” and educational devices not typical of nonfiction books. Some are concept books (for instance, Mazeways: A to Z – an alphabet book that shows real-life things and their environs, like an airport, boatyard, highways, etc). Then there are nonfiction ideas that are wrapped around a finding/counting/naming format, like Desert Days, Desert Nights and Ranch.

Turns out there’s a name for these works… Informational books!

You could call informational books a subset of nonfiction. Nonfiction includes any content or text that is factual. However, not all nonfiction is considered informational. The main purpose of informational texts is to inform or instruct the reader in some way.

Informational text often teaches about the social and natural world (and frequently, in my case, the man-made world). A biography is a classic form of nonfiction; it teaches us about an individual’s life, and certain points in history, but it is not considered “informational.” A procedural or how-to text tells one how to do something; it doesn’t convey information about a particular topic. Other forms of nonfiction may be narrative (like a memoir). Informational text differs from other types of nonfiction in purpose, features, and, often, format.

There are many benefits, besides learning facts, to children when they are exposed to informational books. Understanding new words is one. From So Much More Than the ABCs: The Early Phases of Reading and Writing by Judith A. Schickedanz and Molly F. Collins:  “Because informational books contain many sophisticated technical words and explain them explicitly, reading this kind of book helps children learn higher-level vocabulary.” The illustrations, and sometimes charts and other imagery in informational picture books, enhance learning, thinking, and contribute to increased comprehension… they can be a form of visual cognition for some children.

Informational books often address children’s specific interests and questions about the world. Librarians tell me that these are the books most often asked for; their young patrons want to learn about and understand how things work, are built, what they look like, where they come from. The various ways in which writers and illustrators create these informational works make for some engaging books which enlighten and inform children, often in lively, accessible, and fun formats.

Here’s some more info:

http://www.naeyc.org/books/so_much_more_than_the_abcs/excerpt

http://www.teachersfirst.com/exclusives/moreless/librarian/fuss/q2.cfm

 

(This post was written for The Book App Alliance, an organization of leading authors in the publishing industry who create interactive books for kids. See: http://www.bookappalliance.com/

 

To engage children and keep them interested, and to impart information in a fun way, many app creators use simple forms of “gamification”: lift-the-flap activities, mazes, guessing games, inside-outside concepts, search-n-find, ABCs and numbers, puzzles, matching games, Q&A, hidden objects, word/noun object recognition, and so forth. The games have to be logically associated and integrated with the subject – not just put in gratuitously.

I don’t do fantasy or digital video-type games. I make mainly nonfiction apps. However, many subjects lend themselves to these sorts of game-like interactive formats. It’s great for Common Core. For learning about concepts, people, animals, a historical period, science, a workplace, you can cast the content in an interactive way – children can look under flaps to discover things, answer Q&As (and earn points), play matching games, find and count items, look for hidden ABCs, solve a maze…often in collaboration with others.

Some of my apps with games, all built by OCG Studios:

Roxie’s a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure” (games: solving interconnected mazes, out to the goal and back to the starting place, through 16 screens; finding various items like a recurring penguin, other animals, designated vehicles, numbers, alphabet letters, more; score is kept; up to five players):

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Roxie’s Doors” (games: seek-n-find objects behind flaps, doors, in drawers, under/inside things, etc; naming/vocabulary [word highlighting]):

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Roxie’s Puzzle Adventure” (game: 16 interconnected jigsaw puzzles/screens – choose between 6 and 260 pieces per puzzle/screen; choose rotation, hints, music; up to five players):

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Coming out in September 2014: a series of 11 AR (augmented reality) apps designed to work with KIWiStoryBooks (giant interactive walk-in picture books; themes: Rainforest, Dinosaurs, Space Station, Coral Reef, Farm, Maze, Castle, Fire Station, more):

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“Seek-n-Find.” Matching game; with iPad camera, match images found in backdrop (here, Maze and Farm):

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“Make Some Noise.” Click on images, hear the sounds, and record your own (here, Fire Station and Space Station):

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“Explore & Learn.” Q&A with information and fun multiple choice answers with rewards, games, hidden details/scratch off (here, Rainforest, TV Station, Castle, and Dinosaurs). Activated by scanning markers/stickers placed on KIWiStoryBook:

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“Movie-making.” Use iPad camera and supplied frames to make series of 1-minute videos. Combined/edited into 8-minute movie w/kids’ own voiceovers/narration (here, Coral Reef and Wild West/Native Americans):

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“Puzzles.” Activated by scanning markers/stickers placed on KIWiStoryBook (here, Desert and Fire Station):

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Engaging in games helps children with concentration, setting goals, problem-solving, working together and collaboration (many allow multiple players), perseverance, and celebrate achieving goals. Many games, and mazes in particular, also help children learn decision-making and critical thinking skills. They make them think ahead and plan steps in advance. Mazes teach alternative ways to solve problems and judge spatial relationships. For younger children, they help develop fine motor skills; for older children, maneuvering through mazes helps improve handwriting. Game formats are particularly suited to reluctant readers, special needs children, and boys (although girls are rapidly catching up).

So, using games in apps enhances learning, engagement, and collaboration. And, of course, they’re fun!!!

More info, see Gamification post below on interactivity in print books, and

Using games in the classroom: http://teacherswithapps.com/teachers-surveyed-on-using-games-in-the-classroom/

 

 

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I presented several programs last week at the 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference at SUNY New Paltz (June 14, 15, and 16). Lionel Bender and Sally Isaacs did a terrific job. It was perfectly organized…from the programs, to the venue, to the timing of everything from intensives to workshops to critiques to the social time built in. Exceeded my (rather high!) expectations.

Okay. So what’s the overview?

Well, I felt that the beauty of the conference concept was that it appealed to midlist and mid-career authors and illustrators, unlike SCBWI which seems to target beginners. It gave nonfiction a long-overdue emphasis, and addressed current issues like the Common Core. And faced the digital revolution head-on with up-to-date info.

The faculty included, besides Lionel and me, Andy Boyles (Highlights), Mary Kay Carson (NF author, Bats! app), Robin T. Brown (Nat’l Geo kids), Kent Brown (Highlights Foundation), Vicki Cobb (iNK Think Tank, NF author), John Bemelmans Marciano (author), Laura P. Salas (NF author), Alyssa Pusey (Charlesbridge Sr Editor), Karen Robertson (app expert), Joy Butts (Time Home Entertainment), Melissa Stewart (NF author), Rebecca Graziano (Pearson), Patricia Stockland (Lerner, Editor-in-Chief), Peggy Thomas (NF author), Lou Waryncia (Cobblestone), others.

      Publishers Panel  Listening

And the attendees were writers, illustrators, librarians, and other kidlit folks. I asked a few where they were from, and they came from all over – PA, NY, WV, MA, GA, MD, FL, CA, DE, IL, OH, NC, TX, NJ…

I did a 3-hour Intensive with Lionel Bender on Transmedia (taking your story or idea across multiple media, like print, ebooks, TV, websites, interactive apps; showed KIWiStoryBooks and the new AR apps by OCG Studios). And three workshops: Reinventing Yourself: Using your skills in new markets (career paths, professional practices, dealing with rejection, using social media, fresh directions…); a panel with Karen Robertson (“Treasure Kai”) and Mary Kay Carson (“Bats!”) on Creating our apps; and The Business Side of Apps: Contracts and Costs (also how to make an app, the App Store, marketing, COPPA, profit/loss, iOS/Android). Plus did three critiques.

Because I was doing my own programs, or critiques,  almost the whole time, I got to sit in on only one workshop:  the excellent Mary Kay Carson on School Visits. Vicki Cobb’s Keynote was entertaining and witty, but she got serious when she talked about some of the absurdities of testing and the rigid way we are sometimes expected to write nonfiction. The Publishers Panel discussed The Future of Children’s Nonfiction, which needless to say is entering a robust time, what with Common Core and the coming digital age. For more extensive coverage, go to Rocco Staino’s piece in School Library Journal and Krystyna Poray Guddu’s article in Publishers Weekly. All in all, quite a busy, fun, and gratifying conference.

          Izumi Ashizawa & Roxie Munro     Roxie Munro Reinvent Talk    Roxie & Nancy Pi-Sunyer

Bo and I stayed in the dorm next door (here checking the iPhone on a bunk-type bed) – rather primitive, but cozy and just fine, particularly when I did a mental 180, and decided to view it like camping, in which case it was luxurious compared to a tent.

                                                        checking iphone in dorm room

The responses to the conference have been amazing – everyone has been raving about it, and feels like they are in on the beginning of something big. We’re almost afraid that it was TOO successful – that it will get too popular. Learned a lot, met new friends and reconnected with good buddies, and like the lady below, had a really good time!

                                      Fun Conf dinner