In the 70’s and 80’s there was a public service campaign that asked the question “Do you know where your children are?” Remember that? It saturated the every day vernacular to the point that it became a parody of itself before finally dying out. But now that I’m a parent, I’m thinking that question is still a really good one. Do you know where your children are?
But right now I’m going push it one step further.
Do you know what your children are reading?
That might make you laugh and shake your head at me. Sounds like I’m going totally overboard – I admit it. But before you write me off and go settle in for your next good read, I beg a few minutes of your time. This is a passion of my heart and I’m eager to share it with you.
A few years ago I was asked to visit my daughter’s school and be the speaker for career day. I was scheduled to speak to fourth, fifth and sixth graders about what I do and according to my daughter, the most ‘cool’ part of what I do is writing. So I put together a whole shiny speech on writing for a living. I even took in props and talked to the kids about technical writing versus creative writing. And then I opened the floor up for questions and that’s when I was stunned. Fourth grade girls – some as young as 8 years old, were asking me if I’d read the Twilight series. (I hadn’t at the time.) They started telling me all about it and were eager to share their reading with me. I was shocked at this and later asked my daughter (who was in fourth grade at the time) about this and she confirmed it. The majority of her classmates had already read Twilight and talked about it incessantly. I was shocked to realize that she was being bombarded by it at school because everyone around her had read it.
This opened my eyes to a growing trend in this country that has, of late, exploded. The young adult reader. I think this latest explosion started around the time the Harry Potter books released. That was the beginning of: “But it’s getting kids to read!” Now I’m not arguing about Harry Potter’s goodness or evilness. I’m saying that’s when I first started hearing excitement in people’s voices about books. Headlines started talking about books for kids and books for teens. Young people were reading in droves and they were going to BOOK STORES on their own! So in my humble opinion, that’s when things really started to roll toward not really caring so much what kids are reading. The emphasis was placed firmly on the fact that they were reading and the excitement over that.
Fast forward a decade or so and the Young Adult audience has exploded even further. Kids that were reading Harry Potter as children are now teens or young adults and they’re still voraciously looking for good reading material. This is still such a growing trend that Entertainment Weekly has a story in their current issue (June 22, 2012) about the ‘hot’ YA market and a bevy of successful ‘adult’ writers who are currently tapping into that YA market.
But what’s on shelves for teens and tweens?
A small bit of research into Amazon.com, the NY Times best seller list, USA Today and Barnes & Noble’s top YA books will show you that the top selling young adult books are predominantly supernatural themed with epic battles between good and evil. I joked a few years ago that you couldn’t drop a sharpened popsicle stick in a bookstore without staking a vampire book. That’s still the case except now vampires have been joined by a vast number of fallen angels, demons (which, in the YA genre are considered two different things), shapeshifters, mythical gods and other supernatural creatures. And most of them are in love. Deep, raging, pouring through your soul until you know nothing else in the world exists sort of love. It’s Romeo and Juliet with a twist.
For the most part, the plot is also epic to the point of saving the universe from the most dreadful of evil and love will be what conquers all. It’s nearly always life or death. And wherever you find these books, you’ll find gaggles of young girls gathered around talking about them.
So I’m here and I’m asking the question:
Do you know what your kids are reading?
Stay Tuned for Part Two of this series, Fifty Shades of Indecision.