The Common Core's shift toward including more nonfiction texts in the English classroom has left some of us wondering whether the powers that be intend to reduce the importance of teaching literary fiction. You didn't sign up for this job to teach from a dry textbook, after all—if you're like us, you want to teach interesting stories with interesting writing.

Luckily, there are plenty of informational texts that are just as exciting as works of fiction. Plus, pairing nonfiction passages or full texts with works of literary fiction can help your students better understand and appreciate literature.

Over the next few months, we'll be writing a few articles about nonfiction texts you can pair with some of your favorite works of literature. For now, here are three reasons pairing nonfiction texts with literary fiction helps your students.

Nonfiction gives students essential context.

Some works of literary fiction are full of allusions. If the book your students are reading has a glossary that explains these allusions, that's great.

In some cases, though, you might want to give your students more information so that they better understand why the author included a certain allusion. The author may have alluded to a very dense topic, and one or two paragraphs might not tell the whole story. That's where nonfiction texts come in.

Nonfiction helps students understand current issues.

In some ways, our modern world is very different from the world that existed even half a century ago—you need only take a look at the internet to see maybe the most profound change. And yet, literature was dealing with internet-era issues long before the internet was in place.

For example, think about a major issue that has been in the news over the last few years: constant government surveillance via the internet. Governments are using the internet to spy on one another as well as their own citizens.

Well, George Orwell examined a government's surveillance of its own citizens way back in 1949, when he wrote 1984. Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? examined how government surveillance could be used to target minorities. And Kafka wrote about the horrors that complicated bureaucracies visit upon individuals simply by dint of their overwhelming size and complexity.

Reading news reports and essays about Edward Snowden's revelations that the NSA has been collecting data about millions of American citizens is a pretty good way for students to connect the events depicted in 1984, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and several of Kafka's works to current issues of government surveillance. Students can use the combination of nonfiction and literary texts to come to their own conclusions.

This sort of synergy between informational text and literature isn't rare!

If you look carefully, you can find plenty of nonfiction texts that will help students connect the dots between literature and real life, helping them understand that great works of literature are more than just stories—they're reflections of our shared experiences.

Nonfiction helps students learn to question everything.

Although nonfiction texts (usually) aren't full of things authors make up, we shouldn't regard them as 100% objective truth, either. This can be a hard concept for students to wrap their heads around, but nearly every nonfiction text ever created has some sort of slant, spin, and/or bias that was introduced by the author, whether intentionally or not.

How will understanding this help students become better readers of fiction?

Well, literature is full of characters who, while they might not blatantly lie to other characters, might not tell the whole truth. They might frame some events so as to make themselves look better to other characters in hopes of influencing those characters. Students who can detect slant, spin, and bias in nonfiction can use those skills to detect subtext and subtle meanings authors create through word choice in literary texts.

(By the way, we have a great little book on slant, spin, and bias. Check it out if you're looking to teach students the skills they need to identify it in nonfiction.)