A 6th grade girl entered the library with a look of trepidation. She needed a book for her independent reading time but was convinced there was nothing for her in our collection. As we talked she expressed the frustration of searching for books in the Young Adult collection of the local public library. She told me how nothing in that collection was right for her. Fortunately the Prairie Creek Intermediate School library is built around the needs and interests of the 800+ 5th and 6th grade students who attend our school. Of course we have YA titles on the shelves but we also have a large collection of materials intended especially for this unique audience.
Drawing distinctions between YA and middle grade literature is an important topic for librarians serving the upper range of the ALSC scope of attention (birth to age 14). In a two part posting we’ll dig into the attributes of middle grade literature, the needs of these readers, and how to best serve them as a distinct group between early childhood and young adult. There has been much in the news about the tendency of mass media and the general public to refer to all children’s literature as Young Adult. A few background readings for our discussion:
Jeanne Birdsall writes in the Horn Book about her own youth reading habits in Middle Grade Saved My Life. She also comments on the trends in publishing for this age:
The immense success of young adult books, written for teens and known to everyone as YA, has been overshadowing the quieter middle grade category and, in some cases, threatening to subsume it.
Anne Ursu has been writing about the capacities of middle graders to handle serious stories told exclusively for them (sometimes more quietly). She has described this age as often being overlooked and under appreciated by the general public, reviewers, and sometimes their own parents. How are children’s librarians doing in this regard?
I had the opportunity to share 5 questions with Anne on the IRA blog. Anne will be joining me for part 2 of this post, to be published in April. What questions do you have for Anne about writing for the middle grade audience? How do you provide great service and resources to middle grade patrons? What are the major barriers to serving middle graders in your library? How can we get more people to see middle grade this year? I look forward to hearing from you.
Speaking of great middle grade books – take a moment to download the Tween Recommended Reads list from the ALSC School Age Programs and Services Committee.