Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Problem with Tiny Twilighters or What to do When Readers Read Ahead

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?

9 comments:

  1. I was an advanced reader as a child but I stuck to a lot of books written more for my age becasue I found the topics for older readers kinda boring. I personally wouldn't give Twilight to a child to read, but some teen books are completely appropriate for preteens. It depends on the content of the individual book. There's a big variance in YA books today, some are pretty innocent and others have a lot of sex/violence that I wouldn't want a preteen reading.

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  2. I think it depends on the maturity of the reader and the content of the book. As others have said some YA books are good clean fun and then you have others where it could make an adult blush. That being said I know of 6th graders who are reading Twilight. They enjoy it, but I wonder if they understand everything that is going on.

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  3. Hmm, perhaps this could be why you hear so often of parents complaining that YA books are full of inappropriate material? Maybe it's rather that their child is simply not the age group for whom the books are written? Duhh.

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  4. I was always ahead of everyone else in the reading department, and that was okay for me, I was reading Harlequin novels at the age of 13. My parents' encouraged me to read anything I want, and if there was something I had questions about or concerns about, I talked to them about it. That didn't cause me emotional damage or anything like that, I was fine. But I was also very mature for my age, I never really acted like a child when I was little. I didn't watch cartoons and read kids book, I watched I Love Lucy, Mary Tyler Moore, and I read older books. But I think a lot of it has to do with the maturity of the reader. Some kids are mature and developed enough to handle older YA books, and some aren't. My neice read the Twilight Saga starting last year and she is in 7th grade, she loves it. I have talked to both her and her mother about it (her mother didn't read it), but after my input she made sure to talk to my neice about the things she was reading and I think that is very important. If parents would be involved and talk to their kids about the things they see on TV and the things they read in books, then there wouldn't be such an issue when things that are a little less conservative pop up like sex, drugs, etc. I just think that the majority of it depends on the reader and how mature they are and the understanding they have of the content in these books.

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  5. Yep, I really think it depends on the reader too. But what I hate is when parents want to control what their children are reading or are concerned with what are in teen/adult books but don't check the book out first. If you have things you don't want your child reading about, look at the book first before giving it to your child. Or read a book together so you can talk about things. I wish more parents would take responsbility and be parents.

    I think tiny Twilighters might not get everything out of the books. I think reading it at 9 is going to be totally different than reading it at 15. They can still like it at 9, but I think it'll be a different experience when they're older.

    Samantha-I loved your comments-not too long at all!:)

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  6. Thanks! =)

    I totally agree with you! I think this is a major problem, and more parents should be parents and be involved. Read what your kids are reading, talk to them about it, and if you don't have time to do that then take a little bit to go on blogs (like these) and see what the teen reviewers have to say about the books! Most are way honest in their reviews and you can gain a lot of insight into if it would be an okay book or not. But more parents should be involved.

    And you are way right about Tiny Twilighters. Reading a book at 9 and reading a book at 15 are two very different things. I've reread books now at 20 that I read at like 13 and found a totally new perspective on them (most notably, Speak, which I loved then and still do now). It really is a new experience.

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  7. I've been dealing with this problem in my library as well..Very young girls wanting to read Twilight and what I've done is if they bring me a note from their parents saying they may check it out fine but if not oops I guess its out..(or at least I've used this excuse before I decided on the note)

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  8. '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 would love to see you make a list like this and post it!

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