So I am taking a Summer course titled Young Adult Literature. It’s right up there in level of difficulty with LBSC 745: Storytelling Materials and Techniques. (Yes, an actual class.) In only 3 classes I’ve managed to fill 6.5 pages of notebook paper with notes, titles of books I want to read, and potential final project ideas. I am in awe of the amount of YA and children’s books the professor, Deborah Taylor of Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Library system, has read, and in only a week my list of books on hold at the local library has gone from 11 to 24. I cannot contain my excitement to the two three-hour classes a week, so I will share some of my findings with you.
1. A big reason young adults (YAs) don’t like classics (Shakespeare, Huck Finn, Gatsby) is that they are not given the right context. We need to set the stage for the young readers, explain to them the political nature of the time, war being fought, countries being established, etc. We need to give them a reason to care, not just slap a book in front of them and say, “This is a classic. Read it.”
Perhaps my public librarian friends are saying to themselves, “Not my job.” But it is! When a YA comes into the library on the first day of summer, dragging his feet behind him, wishing mom had stayed in the car, he doesn’t want to be given a diatribe on why The Great Gatsby is the quintessential 1920s novel of the independently wealthy and their horrible manners and lifestyle. Truth be told, it’s rather dull. It’s the life of Paris Hilton and the Housewives of New Jersey set in a time when divorce was taboo and African Americans didn’t have any rights. (But I digress…) He wants to be told that this WWI soldier returns to America and takes a job in Long Island, New York. His neighbor is the richest guy anyone’s ever met, and there’s adultery, drinking (in the age of prohibition! *gasp!*) and partying.
2. Manga is so fascinating to many of its readers, that they are learning Japanese in their free time so that they may read the books in their original format. Therefore, libraries need to own more manga. Period. Take, for example, Queens Library in NY. They own thousands of volumes, and on average 40% are checked out. It attracts young people from all ethnicities and keeps them reading. Read the May 17, 2010 NYT article on the topic.
…More to come.