November 22, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

The Popular Nonfiction Minute Site Launches Crowdfunding Drive

nonfictionminuteThe Nonfiction Minute, a site featuring audio clips of quality nonfiction written and read by some of the biggest names in the field, would seem to be a resource aligned with the demands of the Common Core. No wonder, then, that the site is attracting a lot of traffic.

Created by author Vicki Cobb and a cadre of nonfiction writers organized as a group called iNK Think Tank, The Nonfiction Minute is attracting more than 1,000 page views a day mostly from  word of mouth, says Cobb. The daily  posts, aimed at upper elementary school children, cover subjects ranging from crows and their habit of eating eyeballs, to the concept of a light year, and they’re short, about 400 words, with accompanying audio clips.

With no budget, Cobb is now looking for funding so she can keep the site going. While posts are set to run through the end of this year, it will take additional resources to continue The Nonfiction Minute. To that end, Cobb has launched an Indiegogo campaign with the goal of raising $50,000 before October 2.

The author co-founded the The Nonfiction Minute to help students and teachers discover the narrative woven into any good nonfiction story. Her goal? To get kids to realize fiction isn’t the only form of writing that can leave you hungry for more.

“One thing about trade nonfiction is that the best ones are written with voice and point of view,” says Cobb, a prolific author of approximately 90 books, including Science Experiments You Can Eat (HarperCollins, 1994). “Reading The Nonfiction Minute is a taste, something to eventually get you to a longer form.”

The authors, all published book writers, are names that resonate throughout the field—including Pamela S. Turner, and David M. Schwartz. The editor of this star-studded nonfiction writing array is Jean Reynolds, founder of Millbrook Press, former Chair of the Children’s Book Council.She was retired until Cobb gave her an offer she found she just couldn’t refuse.

“I was happily retired,” says Reynolds from her home in Danbury, CT, laughing. “But Vicki is very persuasive. After I got off the phone with her, I started thinking about the idea, called her back an hour later and said, ‘Yes.’”

Reynolds spends about two hours a day editing and overseeing the site. She looks for a balance of themes—from art to music, math to science—and plans about two weeks ahead so that she can have the stories ready to publish from wherever she may be. (Yes, she helps to run the technology side of the site as well.) Both Reynolds and Cobb believe part of the appeal of The Nonfiction Minute may lie in the MP3 audio files that run with each piece, literally giving students the chance to hear the author’s voice alongside the story. The effect is two-fold—the pieces are opened up to a wider range of students, and also challenge their vocabulary, says Reynolds.

“[MP3 files] free me from having the writers use a limited vocabulary at a third or fourth grade reading level, which can spoil the writing,” she says. “I am very happy to send kids to a dictionary. I want to make sure they understand the story, but if a word is in context, let’s let them figure it out.”

“We want children to know what it feels like to have fun learning something new every single day,” Cobb says. “We nonfiction authors are like professors at large for kids. We know content and speak child.”

Lauren Barack About Lauren Barack

School Library Journal contributing editor Lauren Barack writes about the connection between media and education, business, and technology. A recipient of the Loeb Award for online journalism, she can be found at www.laurenbarack.com.

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