After our teen group meeting, a group of boys split off and starting playing Super Smash Brothers Brawl and a group of teen volunteers came into the room and started eating leftover cake and ice cream. It was a fun atmosphere. One of the teen’s boyfriend arrived and looked around. “Um,” he said slowly, pointing at the boys playing video games. “Doesn’t this, like, go against the point of, um, book club or whatever?”
Another boy jumped in. “No. It’s not about – it’s like. This is our big-party-fun-time. It’s – this is where – we can – ” he couldn’t seem to get the right words out. I tried to help.
“It’s that the library is about fun,” I supplied, smiling. “You don’t have to think about school or homework or getting into college if you don’t want to. You can just come and hang out and enjoy yourself. ”
The TAG kids nodded emphatically over the smashing sounds of Mario. That’s it exactly.
Fun. Remember that? Enjoying yourself? Remember that? Last week, I returned to my alma mater for my favorite, hands-down my favorite, professional conference: Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival. Lots of amazing things, more amazing things than I could imagine, happened. I had the chance to interview Gary Schmidt for half an hour for an article for VOYA and David Diaz gave me a packet of cherry Pez for blow-drying one of his paintings. I also had the chance to hear Roger Sutton give the Ezra Jack Keats lecture. The lecture was a lot about how Harry Potter changed the field of children’s publishing. This part was fascinating, of course, and I can’t wait for The Horn Book article that’s sure to result. BUT it was also a chance for Roger to speak up about the importance of pleasure reading, defending children and teen’s reading choices. I don’t know how I managed to resist standing up and shouting AMEN!
I was tweeting throughout Roger’s lecture and here are some highlights from my notes:
- “Reluctant reader often means they are not reading what we want them to read.”
- “Kids have always fallen in love with terrible books, libraries need to have them too.”
- “In my dream library, no one ever says that’s not good enough.”
- “A librarian’s job is to get out of the way and let the reader choose.”
AH, ROGER, YOU’RE THE BEST!
This all reminded me of the recent flap about the The Independent‘s recent article about “The 50 Books Every Child Should Read.” While this is a noble effort to be sure it’s also … frustrating and, well, silly. There are no 50 books “every” child should read. This is just as silly as that Facebook meme about the BBC’s list of books. Why should you feel guilt about what you have and haven’t read? Who came up with that list anyway? Who is judging you? When did reading become a chore or a competition or (shudder) a requirement? Reading is supposed to be fun, remember?
And, with that in mind … here’s the GIVE AWAY part of the blog, huzzah!
A few months ago, Simon & Schuster offered me a chance to do a giveaway on my blog. I told them heck yeah, because giveaways are awesome. They’ve given me FIVE signed copies of Elixir by Hilary Duff to give away and I couldn’t be more excited.
Yes, Elixir by Hilary Duff. Yes, that Hilary Duff.
Are you rolling your eyes yet? Maybe you are. But let me tell you – this book might not win the Printz but it’s a fun time. It really is. I read it in one sitting and I enjoyed the heck out of it. It’s soapy and ridiculous and full of details about everything from rainforests to red carpets. The story involves Clea, a socialite without a care in the world. Everything changes when her father disappears in the rainforests of Brazil and she decides to go off and try to solve the mystery of what’s happened to him. This is the first plot element I loved: Clea getting out there and doing something herself, a plot that kicks off without a boy pushing her along. Hurrah! (don’t worry, we get to the triangle later. It’s my favorite kind, too: the best friend or the mysterious stranger.) Once she gets to Brazil it gets all supernatural-y and there’s reincarnation and a mysterious stranger who Clea can’t help but be drawn to and adventures in the jungle. Now come on. That’s a fun time, especially for teen readers. The plot doesn’t quite all hang together and the reincarnation stuff gets a little confusing but, really, I wasn’t reading it for plot, I was reading for jungle adventures and longing looks and a female protagonist with a mind of her own. This book delivered that in spades. I wasn’t reading because I wanted to impress anyone (like the BBC) or because someone who doesn’t know anything about my life or my tastes was “requiring” me to. I was reading for pleasure. And you know? That’s required reading to me.
You can keep it for yourself, add it to your library’s circulating collection, or use it as a prize giveaway. This really would make a great teen giveaway: this book was a fun time for me, but teen readers that gobble up paranormal-romances will like it EVEN MORE. AND it’s signed. My teens treat signed books like gold. Better still, I have five of them to give away and the contest is open internationally. All you have to do is leave a comment saying you want to be entered and, at the end of this week, I’ll do a random drawing and notify you if you’ve won a copy.
There are no books “everyone” should read, not every child, not every teenager, not every adult. All of us, every single one, should read what we want. And we should treat reading like what it IS: a big-party-fun-time.