Check It Out: Keeping an eye on the curriculum

California public schools, along with public schools in 44 other states, are adopting a new set of standards. The Common Core State Standards ( for K-12 are a set of language arts and math standards developed to ensure that students are prepared for the college and career environment. One of the major goals of the standards is to teach students how to evaluate information sources and think critically about the sources, content and use of the information with which they interact. To accomplish this, the standards place a premium on reading, and reading information texts, across the curriculum. Informational texts might be books, newspaper or journal articles, websites, infographics, audio and visual media. The standards do not intend to replace fiction. Instead, teachers help their students learn to employ multiple modes of analysis and comprehension by using a variety of fiction and nonfiction reading.

At the Newport Beach Public Library, a central part of our mission is supporting the academic work of our community's students. The new standards offer an opportunity to highlight the library's often under-utilized nonfiction resources, including a collection of nonfiction texts on many subjects intended for a young-adult audience. The YA nonfiction collection is inter-filed with the general nonfiction at all our libraries and can be identified in the stacks by a colorful spine label that says "YA." The following are just a few highlights from that collection.

"Side by Side," edited by Jan Greenberg, is a beautifully produced book of artwork and original poems from around the world. Inspired by the tradition of poetry written in response to visual works of art ("ekphrasis"), Greenberg sought out contemporary poets around the world and asked them to reply, with a poem, to varied pieces of artwork. That poem is then translated into English and placed alongside both the art and the poem in its original language. Greenberg believes that art transcends geography and is a powerful tool to inspire and unite the people of the world.

"It's a Girl Thing" and "The Guy Book," both by Mavis Jukes, offer information about growing up — in body and mind — and strategies for handling the many novelties, both the exciting and the dreaded, of adolescence. The books are written in an informal and factual style; they offer resources for further reading on many topics, as well as sound advice, such as talking to a parent or a trusted adult when faced with a challenging situation.

Also essential are the many online databases to which the library subscribes. These are available free to any NBPL cardholder and can be used at the library or remotely. A practical database for middle and high school students is Opposing Viewpoints in Context. This database gathers various media (print, video, audio) to help students explore important contemporary issues. It also allows students to narrow their search by textual complexity by employing Lexile-level searching. Another database is ProQuest for magazine and journal articles. It compiles full-text articles and offers a historical collection of the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times newspapers dating from the late 1800s to the mid-20th century.

The library also subscribes to an electronic reference collection called Gale Virtual Reference Library. Imagine the many specialized reference books of a traditional library but searchable online and downloadable by chapter or article. Students can also search this collection by levels, whether children, young adult or general audience.

Nonfiction books have come a long way from the frequently dry compilations of facts they once were. Anyone who knows "The Devil in the White City," by Erik Larson, or "Seabiscuit," by Laura Hillenbrand, has experienced this evolution. Nonfiction titles for young adults are no exception: Every year, more engaging, accessible books and electronic resources covering an array of topics are produced.

There's no reason why reading nonfiction should be dull. These books and databases are perfectly suited to the informational text requirements of the Common Core State Standards, and library staffers are ready and waiting to help you discover your next great read. Stop by any location or visit your library online at

CHECK IT OUT is written by the staff of the Newport Beach Public Library. All titles may be reserved from home or office computers by accessing the catalog at For more information on the Central Library or any of the branches, please contact the Newport Beach Public Library at (949) 717-3800, option 2.

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