The world of children's literature contains a variety of genres, all of which have appeal to the diverse interests of children as well as potential for classroom teaching. In recent years, however, nonfiction or information books have emerged as a very attractive, exciting, and popular genre. NCTE, through the Committee on the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children, has established an annual award for promoting and recognizing excellence in the writing of nonfiction for children. The name Orbis Pictus, commemorates the work of Johannes Amos Comenius, Orbis Pictus—The World in Pictures (1657), considered to be the first book actually planned for children.
The award is presented by the Orbis Pictus Committee Chair during the Books for Children Luncheon at the NCTE Annual Convention each year. Although only one title is singled out for the award, up to five Honor Books are also recognized.
Each nomination should meet the following literary criteria:
- Accuracy—facts current and complete, balance of fact and theory, varying point of view, stereotypes avoided, author's qualifications adequate, appropriate scope, authenticity of detail
- Organization—logical development, clear sequence, interrelationships indicated, patterns provided (general-to-specific, simple-to-complex, etc.)
- Design—attractive, readable, illustrations complement text, placement of illustrative material appropriate and complementary, appropriate media, format, type
- Style—writing is interesting, stimulating, reveals author's enthusiasm for subject; curiosity and wonder encouraged, appropriate terminology, rich language
In addition, each nomination should be useful in classroom teaching grades K-8, should encourage thinking and more reading, model exemplary expository writing and research skills, share interesting and timely subject matter, and appeal to a wide range of ages.
Nomination of individual titles may come from the membership of NCTE and from the educational community at large. Any title of nonfiction of informational literature which has as its central purpose the sharing of information may be nominated. This includes biography, but excludes textbooks, historical fiction, folklore, or poetry. Books must have been published in the United States during the previous calendar year.
To nominate a book published in 2008 for the 2009 Orbis Pictus Award, send a letter to the Orbis Pictus Committee Chair, Kim Ford at 6617 Westminster Road, Memphis, TN 38120-3446. The letter should include the author's name, book title, publisher, copyright date, and a short description of what you liked about the book. Nominations for the 2009 Orbis Pictus Award must be received by December 31, 2008.
Read more about how Orbis Pictus Award-winning books are created and chosen in the NCTE book The Best in Children's Nonfiction: Reading, Writing, and Teaching Orbis Pictus Award Books by Myra Zarnowski, Richard M. Kerper, and Julie M. Jensen. This book looks at the first ten years of NCTE's award for excellence in children's nonfiction and offers readers a fascinating glimpse into the world of children's nonfiction.