Well, that’s a can of worms! I don’t even know where to start! You’ve heard me on the subject of nonfiction and boys (men) before, so you know I believe that many boys prefer to read nonfiction, and many girls and women (who make up the majority of teachers and librarians) prefer fiction. (Although, oddly enough, you and your brothers (and your dad) were–and are–big readers of fiction. You and Dad probably read the most nonfiction, and even then you both also read a lot of fiction.)
Anyway, just looking at things like summer reading requirements and the Accelerated Reader program, it’s obvious that many (most?) adults who are guiding the reading of young people think of “recreational reading” as fiction reading.
I do think, though, that librarians who are on award committees work hard at setting aside their own biases to select the best-written books. But I also think that if one doesn’t normally read much nonfiction, it takes a particularly engaging piece of nonfiction to capture that person’s imagination. So in that sense, I think the bar may be a little higher for nonfiction than for fiction.
Is it possible to change a committee member’s mind about what makes a Printz-worthy nonfiction book? Sure, but it requires another committee member who is passionate enough about that nonfiction book to point out its strong qualities to the rest of the committee. Is it possible to find librarians who have different approaches to nonfiction to appoint in the first place? Again, sure, although I have to say that people’s reading preferences isn’t one of the things they put on their application to be on an award committee.
I do think that now that we have YALSA’s Excellence in Nonfiction Award, we are developing more members with expertise in what makes excellent nonfiction, as well as showcasing for all members what the best of the best in nonfiction looks like.
Not to open another can of worms, but the thing I wonder about is why there aren’t more nonfiction books receiving the Alex Award (books written for adults, but with teen appeal).