Before I became a Children’s Librarian I was an English Major that hadn’t read many “classics”. If I was going to graduate with an English Lit. degree, I believed I needed to read a few. So I compiled a list and started checking them off. When I started my M.L.I.S. I hadn’t read many YA books. If I was going to be a YA Librarian, I needed to read much more of that collection. So I read YA.
Then I got hired….as a Children’s Librarian.
My previous years of dedicated reading meant nothing: no one was asking me if I preferred Dostoevsky to Gogol or if John Green’s “Turtles All The Way Down” read like “The Fault in Our Stars”. So I did what every librarian/avid reader does when faced with a dilemma, a question, or a Friday night with no plans: I read. And read and read.
Returning to Juvenile Fiction (and the reason I truly believe ALL adults should go back to reading middle grade novels as well) changed who I was, as a person.
They taught me empathy. Recently published juvenile fiction shares more perspectives, situations, and lifestyles than ever before. It is impossible to read a book without a plethora of characters from all different backgrounds and experiences. When reading so many different voices, it is impossible not to become more sympathetic and empathetic. These books teach us to look at each other with more honesty and love; to rethink our experiences and reimagine others’. In a world increasingly aggressive, these books above all else, will be our saving grace to evoke internal change and intellectual shift as they expose us to ideas outside of our personal “norms”.
They remind me what it is like to be a kid. It is our nature as humans to relate from where we are now. And now I’m a 30 year old, not an 11 year old. I often see my young patrons as who I want them to be: having fun without adult stress, being kind to each other, loving themselves, etc. In essence, I see them as how I wish I could have been if I could do it over. I forget that as an 11 year old I still felt worry and stress. I forget that I wanted to be treated as an adult. I wanted to be respected and included. Reading juvenile fiction is indispensable guidance for any adult who interacts with adolescents. If you want to be able to reach an age group, relate to that age group. Juvenile fiction will bring up all the feels; reminding us what it was like to be in middle school.
They speak to simplicity. Now don’t get me wrong; these books have brain tumors, murder, and homeless children. They have racism. They have bad people who do good things and good people who make colossal and awful mistakes. They have “adult” topics because there really are no adult topics vs. children topics. There is just life and life is scary, dark, and brutal sometimes. But juvenile fiction doesn’t muss around with our adult baggage. It gets to the point: this situation sucks but these are people surviving. Juvenile fiction is filled with reality: the good stuff and the bad stuff. What I love most of all is that there’s always a sense of accomplishment within each book. You end it feeling like you’ve grown. You’ve changed. How many adult books offer that (outside of self help)??
Juvenile Fiction (also known as middle grade novels) make better people and that is why I have chosen to review them more than any other collection. Adults MUST go back to reading them: We will raise better children and become a better society.