As a librarian who serves teens, I am always reading other blogs to find good reads, ideas for programming, etc. The organization, Young Adult Library Association (YALSA), has a blog called the Hub about Young Adult literature that I love to read. Last month, Maria Kramer posted about a statement made in an article in England’s The Independent about the changes with the Common Core Standards and reading in America. The exact quote from The Independent which created a lot of discussion was “Tackling rich literature is the best way to prepare students for careers and college, said [Sandra] Stotsky, who blames mediocre national reading scores on weak young adult literature popular since the 1960s.”
While reading both the Hub post and the article in The Independent, two thoughts immediately came to me. First, I read nonfiction books in social studies and science classes instead of English classes. I remember reading Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America in my high school freshman class in addition to Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. These books helped make history come alive to me and gave context to what we were studying. The second thought is that while I do read literary works, they are not what I enjoy reading. I would rather read a plot driven book over a literary work any day. That having been said, I think reading a variety of books stretches one’s knowledge and taste. Ms. Kramer also cites a research study written by the National Literacy Trust which reveals that reading for pleasure is linked to a variety of literacy benefits including vocabulary building and self-confidence as a reader. The study also shows that those teens who read for pleasure perform at a higher level on reading comprehension portions of standardized tests. Finally, readers who can choose what they read enjoy reading more and are more motivated to read.
Even as the core standards are rolled out over the next few years, more nonfiction for young adults will be written in the narrative form. I recently read all of the nominees for the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults. I especially enjoyed two of the nominees because they made a period of history come alive. Titanic: voices from the disaster by Deborah Hopkins was told through a variety of people and their written or oral accounts of their experience on the Titanic. She also included photographs and documents from the Titanic. The second nominee that I enjoyed was We’ve Got a Job: the 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson. Similar to the Titanic book, We’ve Got a Job tackles the 1963 Birmingham Children’s March through the voices of several of the teen participants of this march. Their first hand accounts brought the civil rights movement to life for me.
Every year YALSA has a variety of book awards and lists. The awards are announced during the Mid Winter Conference towards the end of January. This year the awards will be announced on January 28, 2013 and will be webcast. The book awards are for high quality literature broken into a variety of categories from first time author (Morris Award) to adult books with teen appeal (Alex Award). The only nominees that will be announced prior to the awards are the Excellence in Nonfiction and Morris Awards. I can’t wait to see which books will win and which will be nominated. Looking back at the young adult books that I have read this year that were released in 2012, my favorites so far are I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga, BZRK by Michael Grant and Shelter by Harlan Coben. As with anything there will always be debates. Do you think young adult literature is too fluffy? What young adult book or books have you read that were published this year that you would recommend?