Morgan’s Mumbles: YA is Great, but it Isn’t the Only Game in Town
Today teen contributor Morgan Randall shares a bit of wisdom with us about allowing teens to read freely.
I went through a long period where I stopped reading and it wasn’t because I didn’t like to read or enjoy books. It was purely because everytime someone recommended a book to me it was the same storyline and concept in a YA novel. Now don’t take that the wrong way, I love me a good young adult novel. It’s what I grew up on, and even the cliches (no matter how overdone) always remind me of some of the first books I enjoyed reading.. However, no matter how weird it sounds, I have always been fascinated with classic literature and philosophical novels. I am obsessed with finding deeper meanings in simple texts, or trying to decode something that someone wrote decades (and sometimes even centuries) ago and find a way that it is still applicable in modern day.
The beginning of my junior year I went to a book store and bought Dante’s Inferno, an epic poem that had always intrigued me because of its long lasting impact on the Christian faith and how a majority of people view the concept of “Hell”. I find it fascinating that a text completed in 1320, still has a major impact on the modern world seven hundred years later. Even if someone is unfamiliar with the poem, a majority of people have at least heard of it or the concept of the Nine Circles Of Hell. Having a major impact like this on the world as a whole, along with individual people’s ideas and thoughts, amazes me and is what led me to purchasing Dante’s Inferno. Now, this isn’t a review or break down of Inferno, but something I observed after purchasing it. I bought it, read the first ten pages, and I found it interesting. But the first time I went to talk to someone about it I got the most judgmental comments and looks for reading it (especially since I did it out of my own free will).
I normally don’t take things like this to heart, but somehow I felt ostracized for being interested in classics and philosophy. This led to a drought in reading because being someone who likes to read you are already limited to who you can talk to about books, but being someone who likes to read classical literature narrows down the group of people way more. Now, I don’t think my friends thought of me differently, or would have judged me for this but I like to talk to people about the things I find interesting (which often times is what I am reading) and in all honesty unless you enjoy classic literature it is not something other people want to listen to. Because of this it felt easier just to set down Dante’s Inferno, and all other books that interested me at the time, and take a break from reading.
Now, by no means do I mean to tell you that you should begin to market Dante’s Inferno to kids in your library or class, but what I do want to tell you is when kids express an interest in reading make sure they don’t feel limited by what they are expected to read. Don’t assume every teenager who likes to read wants to read young adult, and on the flip side of this, don’t expose teenagers to only classic literature within your classroom. I think it is super important to give people freedom to read and discover on their own, however I also think it is super important that while they are doing this they are able to have open conversations with adults in their life about all types of things that peak their interest.
Young Adult novels are obviously marketed towards youth and there is a large variety within YA alone, in fact when I do read Young Adult I still enjoy it a lot because I know what I enjoy reading now. The problem is, it takes a lot of trial and error to find books that are a good fit for you, if you do not naturally enjoy reading. I think oftentimes people read one book from a certain genre and assume that it is an accurate representation of the genre as a whole, which is often untrue. This is why I am challenging you, to go out and read some form of literature that might be outside your comfort zone. Something that you assumed you would never like because of false assumptions, or because of pressure other people put on you. Know that you won’t like every genre, and you definitely won’t like every book you read, but there is something amazing about stepping outside of your “normal” within books and discovering something that you never would have thought you would have enjoyed as much as you did. It might give you new insight on what things spark your interest.
I challenge you to do both this, and also when you recommend things to people don’t just assume the genre they would enjoy. Give options of multiple genres and types of literature. Find new books, and old books to recommend across all genres. And when someone, especially youth, finds a genre they enjoy and are finally exploring literature, make sure you choose your words carefully even if the genre isn’t something you suspected. Now, I am not saying don’t encourage them to read other things as well, however it is important that youth who feel like they have finally found something enjoyable to read are encouraged to continue to do so. This will allow them to enjoy reading, whereas if someone around them that they admire (or is in a position of authority) seem to judge them for their choice of literature, it can be a huge turn-off from reading as a whole even if it was enjoyable for them.
Morgan Randall, Teen Contributor
Morgan recently graduated high school and is currently enrolled to attend college in the fall getting her BA in Theatre and Dance with an emphasis on Design and Technology. She loves theatre, writing, reading, and learning. But something that has always been important to her is being a voice for those who feel like they don’t have one, and being a catalyst for change in any way possible.
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About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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