There have been some interesting discussions lately in the bookseller/library world about young reader's wanting to read ahead of grade level. Bookseller Julie Leavitt posted on Publisher's Weekly about nine-year-olds wanting to read Twilight (which makes me cringe-yep I think they're a little too young to read it). Jen Robinson from Jen Robinson's Book Page chimed in with some author reactions and Carlie at Librarilly Blonde posted her thoughts today.
Really, I don't have anything new to add to the discussion. Honestly I hate it when parents come into the library and brag about how their 3rd or 4th grader is reading at a higher reading level, and they want to read YA and adult books (because they can read them, that's what their Lexile is-I hate Lexile too, but that's another post for another day!), but not with any YA or adult themes. My biggest problem with this is that if you're reading in the YA section, you're going to be reading books written for teens and about teens, and they're going to be dealing with teen issues. Yes, there are some "clean" YA books, but what's clean to me might not be clean to you. (Especially since I work in a conservative area)
That's great that your child is reading ahead, but don't force a book upon your child that they might not be ready for (or might not enjoy). This could backfire and your child could end up finding reading boring, not fun and a chore-which as a librarian is the last thing I want them to feel when it comes to reading. No matter your age, you should enjoy reading a book-no matter it's reading level. They could also come across something that maybe they're not quite ready for on an emotional or mature level. Yes, there are things that will go over their heads, but there are things that won't. (My husband was forced to read Are You There God, It's Me Margaret when he was in elementary school for battle of the books and he still complains about it and calls the experience "scarring." Yes he could read it and it was at his reading level, but it wasn't what he was looking for or enjoyed. What pre-teen boy is going to love reading about a pre-teen girl and her "girl issues?")
I'll echo everyone else's thoughts that when you start to read ahead (and only read ahead) you're missing out on some gems from children's lit. I think everyone needs to meet Anne Shirley, have an annoying brother named Fudge, have fun with Allie Finkle, and find out about the babies on a plane that were The Missing. Plus, there are some tweens that want to grow up so fast, that if they start reading teen books, they're going to miss out on some great tween years and experiences only tweens can have.
Even though I'm a teen librarian, I also focus on tween programming and tween lit at my library. I've done school projects on tweens in the library and presented staff training on tweens. I'm the unofficial tween go-to person at my library. I would love to see an area dedicated to tweens in the library, even if it's a small display of great middle grade books. Tweens aren't teens and they need their own programs and space. We can't forget tweens (they're not the storytime crowd and they're not the teen night crowd). Publishers are recognizing the tween set, but I think libraries are still a little slow on the uptake. I really hope libraries start to pull out tween books and booklists so that when a tiny Twilight fan comes to the desk wanting vampire books, you can give them a list of great tween vampire reads. I think libraries need to be more aware of the tween set and be ready with book suggestions for these tween readers. Wouldn't it be great if we not only had a children's area and a teen area but also an area for tweens? (I know, in my dream library...but someday!) I understand there's a desire for tweens to break away from childish things, but maybe if there was a special display or shelf for those tweens (think a Guy's Read shelf) they would have a place that wasn't childish. Or what about a tween book club where they could talk to other readers?
I don't want anyone to think that only teens should read teen books, (or tweens only read books for tweens) because I think tweens can find some great YA, and teens can find awesome tween books to read. I just think that parents need to continue to be parents even if their child is reading ahead and reading alone and be aware of what their children are reading. Maybe if we had more responsible parents who sought help in a library instead of randomly picking out books, we could avoid book challenges like this one.
So, with all that said, should tweens be reading Twilight? What is your favorite tween book that you think all tweens should read? What do you think about tweens reading ahead and reading older?