Two Questions for the Most Helpful People I Know

Dear Librarians,

I have a very basic question and a semi-complicated question. I probably should have come to see you a long time ago, but I’m going to take the better-late-than-never approach. So here goes …

First up: How do you characterize a children’s book that is filled with factual information but has a story built around it. Here’s an example:

I just read a picture book that carefully documents the very real  tasks of a police officer but these are illustrated characters, not photos.  This is “Anytown, USA” not a known place (like Towson, Maryland).

Is it fiction or nonfiction? Is there a sure-fire way of determining which side of the fence a book like this falls on?

Question 2:  Many of us know Easy Readers as a specific category of books for children learning to read.  They are generally easy to spot because of their size and also because they have a banner and letter/number system on the front and a code on the title page or back cover. I have read picture books that would seem to make excellent easy reader candidates. Is there a way for a non-educator or librarian to identify those books?

Thank you as always for your helpful advice and guidance.



11 responses to “Two Questions for the Most Helpful People I Know

  1. These are questions that parents probably often have but are too embarrassed to ask … especially the fiction/nonfiction one. I’d really like to find a way to help parents select books for kids that meet their goals. Can you talk this up around the Chook-house?

  2. Thanks Eva. Police Officer on Patrol is exactly the book. Librarians are SO good! I figured the second question would be a toughie. I read lots of easy readers with the K/1 students I work with and that “level 1” sometimes is nothing more than a word or two on a page … which we sometimes find in infant/toddler pic books. Would it be fare to say that SOME infant/toddler books (e.g., those emphasizing object identifaction) have POTENTIAL as easy readers?

  3. I work closely with the other two librarians in my office and with the cataloging department to figure out where each book should go – it’s very much on a case-by-case basis. We just put a recent book that sounds much like the book you described – Police Officers on Patrol by Hamilton – in our picture book section. Although it described many of the duties and experiences of police officers and thus was very informative, the use of rhyming text, the cartoony illustrations, and the obvious appeal to preschoolers led us to put it in the section where we thought it would be most easily found and enjoyed.
    As for the second question – that’s a toughie! My short but not very helpful answer is – unless it outwardly looks like an Easy Reader and/or is shelved in that section of the library (and usually only obvious Easy Readers are), it might be hard to find picture books with that kind of controlled or easy-to-read vocabulary.

  4. 1st question: Most books will have a library of congress categorization listed on the title page. I looked up the book that you were referring to and it list “E” as in everyone fiction or picture books. If there had been Dewey numbers…then it would be categorized as nonfiction. It really is best to leave most of these decisions to the professional catalogers (not a job I could do).

    2nd question: This just comes with experience. For instance, Dr Seuss books are not normally shelved with easy readers. Some, like Red fish Blue Fish and Hop on Pop, would work very well as easy readers. Other, like Fox in Socks, would not. They are the same size books. You just have to read them to figure this out. You should check with your local librarian for a list of books that can double as easy readers but might have more to offer as far as story and pictures. My kids love the “Minnie and Moo” and “Elephant and Piggie” ( both typical easy readers). Also, Dog and Bear could be considered easy readers found in picture books.

    Hope this helps….

    1. Thanks, Susan. I guess what has me stumped is that it varies so much. I see books I think are fiction given a Dewey number. I think of nonfiction as a fairly straightforward “discipline.” But it’s not. And as you say, Dr. Seuss designed the books you listed to be easy readers, but they are often shelved with the picture books. My goal with the questions was to give parents some practical tips to help them sort through the stacks without having to be a librarian. Something like the five finger rule for determining whether a book is too hard or too easy for a young reader.

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

  5. Susan – I just came across another example last night. My daughter picked out The Spider and the Fly from an end cap. I would have put this in picture books (very comic edition), but it has an 800 cataloging number!

  6. The Spider and the Fly is a poem — which puts it in the 800 area of the library.
    We bring people’s attention to the picture booky type poetry books by putting them on display — which is why you found it on an end cap display.
    -wendie old, who also lives near Towson, MD

    1. Thanks Wendy. It made sense way-back-when as a student honing in on specific stuff, but as a parent/literacy advocate I scratch my head. In our library, some poems/rhymes are in the PB section, others in the 800s. When I wrote this post I was hoping to have some type of “rule of thumb” that could help parents in the library (something like the 5-finger-rule for reading ease). What I think I’m hearing from everyone is that Dewey provides a framework, but there are lots of ways to use it within the library, which makes it more “individual.”

      I wish there were a library big enough to have everything face out … Catherine picks so many books from the end cap displays!

      You wouldn’t happen to be in Catonsville or Arbutus would you? I grew up in the latter; my dad’s family and some of my husband’s family are still in Catonsville! Dad was Headmaster at Loyola HS many moons ago.

Comments are closed.