Common Core State Standards and My Writing

When Publishers Weekly asked public librarians to name the “big issues” they are currently talking about, Common Core was at the top of the list. These librarians see Common Core as an opportunity to spotlight the great nonfiction young library-users have been overlooking for years.  You might want to take a look at their comments in the Publishers Weekly article I mentioned.

My agent tells me that Common Core is on editors’ minds as well. The big question she gets when she submits a nonfiction manuscript to a publishing house is “How does this book fit in with the Common Core standards?” I wasn’t a particularly happy camper when she told me to become thoroughly familiar with Common Core as I work through my current biography. When I did an online search, I was prepared to find a bunch of strict rules that would cramp my style.

What I discovered was just the opposite. Common Core demands nonfiction that will challenge readers through both language (more sophisticated words and sentences) and structure (multiple themes, multiple viewpoints, use of things like flashbacks in chronology, references to primary documents). Common Core didn’t give me a list of vocabulary words or concepts to include but rather general goals that upped the standard and left me free to run.

It was music to my ears!  As a writer for children and young adults, my goal is still to make challenging subject matter accessible to my readers. But I don’t have to shy away from “big” words or long sentences with dependent clauses. I can also talk about what I call the “underside” of no-brainer issues. Like why many intelligent, caring women in the early 1900s were against women’s suffrage for example.

Clarity and narrative are still the key elements for me. Using more sophisticated language and structure means there is no room for muddiness or sloppy transitions in the way I tell my nonfiction tale. In fact, a tight running narrative becomes more important than ever because a good story will give readers the incentive they need to try just a little harder to figure out that strange new word and to stay with that sentence that seems to be running a bit long.

Kathleen Odean, author, reviewer, and former children’s librarian, has a great website spotlighting the kind of nonfiction demanded by Common Core  It’s well worth visiting.

And I would encourage all you nonfiction writers out there to visit the Common Core website and wander around a bit.  You’ll be surprised at what you find!

Common Core logo

About Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

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Connie is an experienced speaker and presenter who enjoys sharing her passion for writing and her experience as a writer with readers and writers of all ages. She has presented to students, community, civic and professional organizations, writing groups, library audiences, and seniors – wherever book lovers gather!
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