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2015 March Language Arts, v92.4

Non-Member Price: $12.50

NCTE Member Price: $4.25

Issue Theme: Information Is Power?

Level(s): Elementary, Middle

ISBN/ISSN: 0360-9170


Language Arts
Volume 92, Number 4, March 2015
Issue Theme: Information Is Power?

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Thoughts from the Editors
Laura May, Peggy Albers, Caitlin McMunn Dooley, Amy Seely Flint, and Teri Holbrook

A Content Analysis of Orbis Pictus Award–Winning Nonfiction, 1990–2014
Thomas Crisp
Abstract: Facilitated by an increased interest in children's literature in language arts classrooms and an expanding selection of quality nonfiction books written for children, the October 1991 issue of Language Arts centered on the theme, "Nonfiction, Language Learning, and Language Teaching." Today, it is difficult to overstate the important role children's literature and, in particular, children's nonfiction literature, occupies in pedagogical contexts. However, despite increased interest in nonfiction children's books, the findings of literacy research, new standards, and recent legislative mandates, critical research on children's nonfiction remains scarce and studies center primarily on topics like accuracy of information, design, organization, and style. Few studies examine critically the content of children's nonfiction in the ways in which children's fiction has been analyzed for decades: moving beyond text type, convention, and form to examine the depiction of cultural identities like race, gender, social class, ethnicity, age, religion, dis/ability, region, and sexual identity. This article shares the results of a content analysis of recipients of the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children that spans 25 years, from the inaugural award year in 1990 through 2014, the current award year. In addition to providing an overall snapshot of the focal subjects depicted in these award-winning books, the author identifies avenues for future research on the content of children's nonfiction.

Knowledge, Literacy, and the Common Core
Gina Cervetti and Elfrieda H. Hiebert
Abstract: The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) represent a fundamental shift toward the inclusion of more informational texts and related instruction, beginning in kindergarten. It would be possible to respond to the call for more attention to informational texts in the CCSS by simply changing the balance of different text types used for instructional purposes. In this article, we discuss why we should instead focus on using the opportunity of reading more informational texts to build students' disciplinary and world knowledge. We suggest that the critical message of the CCSS is the need to support students in developing knowledge for and through reading. We describe themes from the existing research about the relationship between knowledge and reading comprehension and describe critical dimensions of knowledge-enhancing English Language Arts Instruction.

Research and Policy: Lessons from Research on Young Children as Readers of Informational Texts
Monica A. Belfatti
Abstract: Though in recent years there has been an increased emphasis on the presence and use of informational texts in the early years of schooling, classroom pedagogical practices remain stuck in autonomous models of literacy. Pedagogies driven by high-stakes test preparation point students toward single, assumedly correct, understandings of informational texts—a reading practice that can undermine the goal of developing children into critical consumers and producers of information. Drawing on the past 25 years of research in the field, this article makes the case for educators to build pedagogical supports that nurture children’s diverse and sophisticated sense-making practices: analyzing linguistic structures particular to the informational genre, reading complex image forms, constructing word-image relationships, raising and answering conceptual inquiries, and critically questioning textual authority.

Professional Book Reviews: The Power of Informational Texts
Priscila Alvarado, Elizabeth Bemiss, Angela Byrd, Lisa Reid, and Liza Speece
Abstract: This review of professional books helps us to consider the power of informational texts from varying perspectives. Each book offers a unique insight into the current landscape of classroom literature. Building on ample research suggesting that informational texts in the classroom throughout elementary and upper grades is beneficial for student motivation and literacy development, these books add to our professional knowledge on integration of informational texts into instruction. The books reviewed also address social justice issues and literacy in diverse contexts.

Children’s Literature Reviews: The 2014 Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts
Patricia E. Bandré, Shanetia P. Clark, Christine Draper, Evelyn B. Freeman, Dick Koblitz, Jean Schroeder, and Barbara Ward
Abstract: In this column, committee members present the 2014 Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts. Committee members carefully evaluate each book based on the following criteria. Each title must: (1) deal explicitly with language, such as play on words, word origins, or the history of language; (2) demonstrate uniqueness in the use of language or style; and (3) invite child response or participation.

Conversation Currents: Considering Informational Texts
Eric Tribunella and Carrie Hintz
Abstract: Two researchers of children’s and young adult literature and coauthors of Reading Children’s Literature: A Critical Introduction (2013) discuss the complexities that surround informational texts and the issues related to these complexities.

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