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Why February is a great time to pitch your non-fiction children’s book to schools



This year, Shrove Tuesday (also known as Pancake Day) lands on Tuesday 21st February. Teachers often use this as an opportunity to bring instruction texts into the classroom (as well as revisiting some traditional tales and staples of the primary-school curriculum).


This means that this term (or next, depending on when Pancake Day lands around the half term break) can be a good time for writers of non-fiction to approach schools – and not least because of the added bonus of a global celebration of books in March.


So, to be clear, what are instruction texts?


These are texts that show the sequence of actions required to complete a task. They often use organisational devices such as numbering, bullet points, headings and diagrams. They are part of the non-fiction curriculum and present opportunities to talk about ordering, imperatives (‘bossy verbs’) and time connectives (e.g. first, then, afterwards, finally).


Instruction texts typically appear as recipes, manuals and leaflets, and build the foundations for clear written communication and scientific writing. However, they can also be found within non-fiction books and magazines to describe associated activities or clarify a process.


You can even discuss instructions in fiction, either explicitly (where they are listed) or by extracting the sequence of events and using these as a hook to create a recipe, guide or manual.


Pancake Day can also be useful for any writers of food as the focus is on ingredients, mixing these together and creating something new, leading naturally to conversations around innovation, scientific reactions, where food comes from, how it grows and healthy eating.


Obviously, it is important to look at where this festival originates, why people make pancakes and the significance of the days that follow for people of the Christian faith. If you write about festivals, cultures and customs, or Christianity, this is also a good time to approach schools.


Even if your book doesn’t fit with any of these suggestions, don’t forget that you can write an instruction text on anything. Isn’t social media full of them? Create your own posts, blogs or instruction videos so that you can get behind this part of the curriculum and come to teachers’ attention when they are planning their next focus on instruction texts and searching online for inspiration.


And one last suggestion: could you turn your school visit into a lesson on instruction texts and their importance? Can you have some fun with your book? Can you talk about the narrative sequence and what happens when you move this around? Can you validate the importance of editing and how changing the order of words or ideas can change the sense or impact of your writing?


Put it on your to-do list. After all, isn’t that just an instruction text for yourself?


 

Isobel is an Oxfordshire-based editor and proofreader of inclusive books for children, and helps children’s authors market their books to UK schools and create engaging author visits. Writers seek her help to make their books more inclusive and accessible to children and their adults, and appropriate for teaching and learning. As a former school librarian and governors’ clerk, she knows what teachers want and need, where they look and how to unlock the budget for books and school visits. As well as editing and coaching, she loves spending time outside, playing music with friends and exploring the world of film.


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