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Readers’ Advisory for Children and ‘Tweens by Penny Peck is suitable for those librarians/would be librarians who seek practical advice about how to help kids and teens find appropriate and enjoyable reading material. The first chapters have a sort of smorgasbord approach to the history of RA and teen/children’s literature, only briefly sketching in details about the definition of RA, adolescent brain development, child psychology, and reading response theory. As a student of library science focusing on learning about RA for this age group, I found this introductory section to be somewhat thin, but I understand that this book is primarily intended as a practical aid for new librarians or possibly even experienced librarians who are new to serving this age group.
The features of the book I find most useful are:
- The short, well-organized chapters– easy to refer to at a moment’s notice.
- The brief and yet astute summaries of a variety of genres for different age groups (from picture books, to board books, to an informative section on easy readers, to an in-depth and yet succinct exploration of transitional books, to genres read by tweens). In fact, as most of my own experience is in helping teens and older tweens, I personally found the discussion of the importance of transitional books to be one of the most informative sections of the book.
- Her advice on proper body language when discussing books with kids/tweens is stellar– amongst other tidbits, she reminds the librarian to “listen with your full attention. Put away your other work.” This is such simple advice but absolutely necessary, especially when working with kids and tweens who are so used to adults not having the time to really pay attention to them. She also states that after offering /showing several book choices to a child or tween, one should “walk away and let the person choose without pressure.” Absolutely brilliant advice, which I plan to take her up on!
- Lastly, this book provides invaluable booklists, from ready-to-use read-alike lists for Diary of a Wimpy Kid (a currently wildly popular kids title) to books which have made into popular films, recommended easy readers, and recommended multicultural poetry books. These lists are wonderful resources for the harried/hurried librarian who needs quick and yet solid advice in helping to guide a child or tween to his or her next great read.
However, there was one area that I was surprised to find not covered in this book, given its title. When the author discusses the Readers’ Advisory interview, she does not discuss the ever elusive appeal factors— those factors that, according to Joyce Saricks, are what really make the reading experience meaningful in unique ways for each individual reader. In fact, in his August 1st article entitled “Serious Fun: Readers’ advisory, young readers, and you” Brian Kenney (editor in chief of the School Library Journal) writes, “… what’s largely missing in the discussion about RA and young people is what adult librarians call “appeal terms,” the language that readers use to describe what they appreciate in a book.” He goes on to state that this thinking about appeal factors for and by young adults is crucial, as:
… reading is too often presented as part of testing, a reading management program, or for assignments. Reading for pleasure can be marginalized, and too often students, in discussing books they like, are allowed to move from the middle school years—when the most they will say about a book is “I love it,” accompanied by the requisite plot summary—to the high school years—when they encounter formal literary conventions (the protagonist!) without ever thinking about what they enjoy in a book.
Appeal terms give readers a way to articulate what they like in their leisure reading, fiction or nonfiction, and let them know that these preferences are OK. They allow them to own their reading experiences and signal that reading for fun can be taken—just a little bit—seriously. And best of all, appeal terms offer young people a way to think about reading that can sustain them throughout their lives.
If Ms. Peck had incorporated this admittedly difficult-to-discuss-with-kids idea of appeal factors, this book would be the perfect short and sweet and yet “quickly comprehensive” reference on the topic for all librarians. As it is, the book still fulfills this role, and yet savvy would-be Readers’ Advisors would be well-advised to supplement their reading of this book with readings about appeal terms. Some recommended readings:
Nesi, Olga. “It’s All About Text Appeal.” School Library Journal 56.8 (2010): 40-42. http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/slj/home/885803-312/its_all_about_text_appeal.html.csp
Saricks, Joyce. Readers’ advisory service in the public library. 3rd ed. Chicago: Americal Library Association, 2005.
In the morning, I spoke with a mom of a preternaturally intelligent girl, whom I hadn’t seen at the library for quite some time. She is a recent immigrant, and struggles with her English, but expresses herself perfectly clearly. She told me about how her daughter had just started school a month ago, and that her teacher has told her she is behind in the number of English words she uses. So that’s why I haven’t seen them for a while — After kindergarten every day, they go right home to do homework. Plus, the mom said, she gives her daughter more homework! All this was said with so much love and care for her daughter.