Choosing High Quality Children's Literature/Realistic Fiction
By: Melody Diosi and Jennifer Yutzy
What is Realistic Fiction? Realistic Fiction books are those that have plots, characters, and settings that could be found in real life but the stories are fiction (not true). Realistic Fiction is divided into two parts: historical and contemporary fiction. Historical fiction takes place in a time remote enough to be considered history, rather than contemporary fiction which takes place today or in the recent past.
Criteria for Realistic Fiction
We have found 8 important criteria for finding a high quality Realistic Fiction book. Along with some of the criteria there is a suggestion for a Realistic Fiction book.
- Must grab the reader's attention and/or interest with a good beginning that introduces the action and characters in an enticing way. Suggestion: Taking Sides by: Gary Soto which is a story about Lincoln Mendoza, an aspiring basketball player, who must come to terms with his divided loyalties when he moves from the Hispanic inner city to a suburban neighborhood.
- Must be something the reader can relate to such as friendships, family life, school, or childhood. Suggestion: Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by: Judy Blume which is about a girl who is faced with difficulties of childhood and choosing a religion.
- Must give the reader a strong connection to the characters. Suggestion: Dear Mr. Henshaw by: Beverly Cleary which is a story about a boy named Leigh who deals with his problems of coping with his parents' divorce, being in a new school, and finding his own place in the world.
- Must have a good and complete ending but not predictable. Suggestion: Because of Winn Dixie by: Kate Dicamillo which is a heart-touching story about a girl and her dog.
- Must have characters that behave and express themselves as real children. Suggestion: On My Honor by: Marion Dane Bauer which is a story about two boys swimming in a dangerous river and one accidentally drowns.
- Must have a theme with an underlying idea that ties the plot, characters, and settings together.
- Must have a style that helps develop the plot and bring the characters to life.
- Must help the reader expand his or her imagination and stimulate feelings.
Types of Realistic Fiction
There are many types of Realistic Fiction: Coming of Age/Friendship, Death and Deadly Disease, Dysfunctional Families, Foster/Adoptive Families, Mental/Psychiatric illness, Novels in Poetry Form, School Stories, Survival, and Documentary. These types of Realistic Fiction are explained more at this website: http://www.haworth.org/realistic.html
Boys vs. Girls Reading
When a story has an interesting plot in the framework, it is easy to involve the students in the plot. We can ask them to add dialogue to the beginning, middle, and end of the story. Children's first response to a story is usually a personal one from an experience. There are a difference in preference of stories between boys and girls. Boys like to read about sports, humor, mysteries, or adventure, while girls tend to read about fantasy, animals, and stories about people. Using Realistic Fiction can help teachers or parents engage both girls and boys. There is a book that can help teachers and parents find more information on engaging both girls and boys into reading: 
Other Website Recommendations
- This website contains great recommendations for Realistic Fiction and is a good source of information for teachers.
- This website contains more information about what Realistic Fiction is and a "Top Ten" List of great Realistic Fiction Books.
- This website is about Contemporary Realistic Fiction and contains a list of Contemporary Realistic Fiction recommendations.
- This website gives suggestions on how to write a Realistic Fiction book.
- Lynch-Brown, C. & Tomlinson, C.M. (2007). Essentials of Children's Literature: (6th ed.) Massachusetts: Allyn & Bacon.
- Norton, D.E. (2007). Through the Eyes of a Child: An Introduction to Children's Literature: (7th ed.) New Jersey: Prentice Hall