6 Reasons Children’s Books Are More Important Than Ever, Because There's So Much In Those Pages That Can Broaden Horizons
You've probably heard enough people talking about what faction they'd belong to in Divergent, or waiting for the next (and next next) John Green book to movie adaptation to know that young adult novels are killing it in the publishing industry right now. Don't believe me? Remember bestselling books of 2014, according to Nielsen?:
- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Paperback)
- Divergent by Veronica Roth (Paperback)
- Insurgent by Veronica Roth (Paperback)
- Allegiant by Veronica Roth (Paperback)
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul by Jeff Kinney (Hardcover)
- The Fault in Our Stars (Movie Tie-in, Paperback)
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Paperback)
- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Hardcover)
- Killing Patton: The Strange Death of World War II’s Most Audacious General by Bill O’Reilly (Hardcover)
- Looking for Alaska by John Green (Paperback)
All but two are young adult. (And also, Bill O'Reilly seems to be the odd author out on this list, don't you think?) But it's not limited to just YA. Signs are pointing to picture books, children's books, and middle grade books being on the rise as well. And we're too far out from Harry Potter to attribute a middle grade spike on that. Pamela Paul, editor of the New York Times Book Review, spoke out on Twitter about this boost in book sales for the younger generations:
And yes, we can go ahead and talk about how adults are reading YA, but that doesn't dismiss the rise entirely, especially because it's not likely they're buying all of the picture books for themselves, too. The rise of children's books is a great, great thing, especially for these six reasonsL
First Off, Children's Literacy Is Crucial
Today, there are 781 million people worldwide who can't read or write. Around 123 million of those are 15- to-24-year-old youths, 76 of whom are young women. These are just the facts.
Children's literacy is the beginning of creating teenagers and adults who are prepared for jobs, school, and success in their lives. The rise of children's and young adult titles can only help, as long as we all take care to ensure these books are getting into the hands of those who desperately need them.
No, They're Not All Just Playing Video Games
Sorry haters, the younger generations are reading. They may get the patronizing stereotype of being hooked into SnapChatting or Grand Theft Auto and consider print books for their parents, but It's just not true. Books like The Fault in Our Stars and Harry Potter should make that clear, but just remember to look above at the bestselling books of 2014.
Kids aren't just reading books, they are energized and excited about the books. And especially in a world where even adults are distracted by new media and digital everything, this is inspiring and important moving forward.
Understanding Places You Only See on the News
Teens have grown up seeing the Middle East and other places in tumult scattered across headlines. They have become everyday business to most young people, but most have not traveled there and some probably have never even met peers who grew up across the globe. Books have a way to put humanity into places you've only seen splashed on Internet news. Think of books like this year's 5 to 1 by Holly Bodger, which may be set in a futuristic world, but it's imbued with Indian culture. And there's Aisha Saeed's Written in the Stars set in a stunning Pakistan and centered on long-standing cultural traditions. Or there's Rebels by Accident by Patricia Dunn, which takes place in Egypt during the Arab Spring. Of course there are many more examples, and hopefully even more as years pass.
In a world where you can get answers on the fly by using a smartphone, books still have that Reading Rainbow spirit that lets you get lost in magical places. Harry Potter proves that this kind of story is inspiring, and kids and teenagers that are coping with tough real-life circumstances (and even those that aren't) need that kind of inspiration. Too many adults have lost their imagination, and making sure it sticks with younger generations may be able to change that.
Building Empathy of All Kinds of People
This one of course would also require book banners stop censoring books. The more young people can see faces different from their own in their books (and movies and TV), the more they can build empathy growing into adulthood. Whether it's a family with two dads, like in And Tango Makes Three, or a couple raising their biracial children like in Blackout, or children suffering from a mental illness, like in Rain Reign, children need to see perspectives other than their own to find their way in a community.
Finding Your Identity
Similar to building empathy, books can mirror back people who are going through the same things you are. It can help young people understand themselves and where they fit. This is especially important in an age of brutal internet bullying, like in Jennifer Mathieu's The Truth About Alice. Like I Am Jazz or Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, books can help children and teenagers feel confident and comfortable in their own skin, and know that if they are suffering at the hands of others for just that, there are people who understand what it's like and on their side.
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