During my first year as a Teacher Librarian in a high school, I have come across an interesting problem regarding the inclusion of year 7s in the high school and what this means in terms of our collection. I often find myself thinking about whether or not I want my year 7s to access a particular book. This is quite problematic for me because I then start to wonder if there is actually a real difference between the year 8s and year 7s in terms of maturity and appropriate reading material. If the year 7s were deemed old enough and mature enough to be moved into the high school, then surely they are old enough and mature enough to read the materials we select for our collection?
There is a strong argument for allowing young readers to engage with mature themes in texts, because it creates a safe environment to engage with these issues and to learn about them. I also believe that students these days need an opportunity to connect with and understand issues that are of a sensitive nature in a private way. To aid in this, the number of books that discuss these sensitive issues have increased dramatically over the last few years. It is not uncommon for young readers to engage with “texts… [with an] ability to challenge [them], … that have layered and multiple meanings, and that provoke thought” (Matrix, 2012, para 1).
There is an age old argument that centres around the idea that “you become what you read” (Forman, 2015, para 2). However, as Forman states, if this were true than I am sure that many of us would have grown up to become very different people than we are today. I, for one, would have loved to have received my letter to Hogwarts, but unfortunately I have become resigned to the fact that I will not. (Gandalf, I am counting on you collecting me at 111 years old for the adventure of a lifetime!) Forman goes on to say that “Literature swims in the murkier waters of the human condition. Conflict and matters of life and death, of freedom and oppression—it is the business of books to explore these themes, and the business of teenagers, too” (2015, para 6). It is clear to me that it has become important for young readers to read widely and to engage with all sorts of issues in their reading.
After doing a little bit of investigative reading and some reflection, I have come to the conclusion that we should not deny our students the opportunity to read what they want to read. If we are to make judgements on the appropriateness of a book, then it must be done on a case-by-case basis, because what is appropriate for one student may not be appropriate for another. It is essential that students are able to identify with characters in the books on our shelves, whether they are dealing with difficult issues in their personal lives, or are interested in learning more about issues in our world. After all, there are books out there that are for “the discerning, the mature and even the most reluctant of teen readers” (National Library of New Zealand, N.D., para 4) and who are we to stand in their way of accessing these.
Forman, G. (2015, February 6). The Author of If I Stay on Why Kids Crave Young Adult Books With Dark Themes. Retrieved February 18, 2016, from http://time.com/3697845/if-i-stay-gayle-forman-young-adult-i-was-here/
Matrix. (2012, March 12). The Author of Year 7 & 8 (Stage 4) Recommended Reading List. Retrieved February 18, 2016, from https://www.matrix.edu.au/year-7-8-stage-4-recommended-reading-list/
National Library of New Zealand. (N.D.). The Author of Young Adult Fiction. Retrieved February 18, 2016, from http://schools.natlib.govt.nz/creating-readers/genres-and-read-alouds/young-adult-fiction