Yesterday’s Christmas holiday was a great time to relax after four crazy days on the bookstore sales floor. I love customer service and enjoy every minute that I get to use my experiences as an educator, parent, and writer to inform people about the developmental, pedagogical, and entertainment value of quality books for children.
Here are a few take-aways from the last week:
- Graphic novels are valid reading! I can’t stress this enough. The world we live in today (and the world that children inhabit) is filled with a range of text and images that work together to create narrative. Sequential art and narrative follow complex rules and patterns. The form takes years to master and each title takes years to create. For more on this please take a look at Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. ETA: If you need some suggestions, the “THE 2019 NERDIES: GRAPHIC NOVELS” is a great place to start.
- It’s okay for kids to read on or below their reading level. I know we are all obsessed with “challenge” and “progress,” but reading something that is “easy” also provides text comprehension and analysis. Moreover, it provides enjoyment and entertainment. Ultimately, we want reading at home to be fun. Your child will be challenged in school. Don’t worry. And remember, plenty of adults crave an airport mystery or romance from time to time.
- On that note, give your kids the tools they need to pick their own books. Teach them to read the flap copy, read the first page (or a random page) and see if the story is engaging. Help them remember the books that they’ve enjoyed. Encourage them to try other titles by that author or look for other books on a similar subject. Is it too hard or too easy? Kids can use the five finger test—if they have a hard time decoding five times on the first page, it might be too hard. If they want the challenge then let them move forward. Regarding content: people will self-censor. Unless the book is assigned, if a person doesn’t feel comfortable with the violent or sexual content of a literary work, they will often stop reading.
Editors and publishing professionals:
- Thanks for the diversity that we’re seeing on our shelves!
- We need more black boys in picture books and middle grade novels.
- We need more positive representation of black and brown bodies in books generally.
- We need diverse stories about creators and problem solvers.
- We need more middle grade and YA books about contemporary teens who play instruments, sing, dance, and are in theater.
- We need more middle grade and YA books about sports. All kinds of sports for both boys and girls. Gymnastic, lacrosse, baseball, bowling, rowing (hey, I’ve got one of those manuscripts!).