Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Reading Up – Choices, Choices, Choices… and Responsibilities

 When it comes to reading up, I find that tweens often look up to their older peers for guidance. At this stage, they can't wait until "tomorrow" and want to grow up fast to be able to do what everyone else is doing. I believe it is the same case with reading… even if some of the content goes right over their heads. If a book becomes popular and it happens to be for an older audience, tweens will still clamor to get it and read it in order to be seen as "cool" by their peers – great examples are Harry Potter and Twilight. These books may have messages that require a more developed brain to understand and be able to see what the author was writing in between the lines. Many of the topics that are considered unsuitable contain sex, substance use, violence, and language… but in a way, it is up to the reader to decide whether they feel comfortable reading it. I know there are readers that will just read right through and not even notice the harshness of what they just read because they are more interested in the story or they don't think about how something is inappropriate.

This leads me to an article about realistic fiction – which is a genre that deals with stories that take place in modern time and with characters that experience events that could really happen. Books deal with self-realization, problems, and tolerance among other topics.

In the article by Younker and Webb (2005), the authors focus on the lack of a fair representation of realistic fiction that deals with minorities. The authors find it unfair that many minorities are misrepresented and often labeled as criminals simply because so many books focus on reinforcing stereotypes. The article is about trying to encourage authors and publishers to refrain from incorrectly portraying minorities, thus creating stereotypes. I found that the data presented showed that the books were inaccurate when they portrayed a character from a minority as a drug dealer or trouble maker and I found that troubling. If tweens are to be represented fairly, then it should be made sure that minorities are represented accurately and not in some way that doesn't encourage tweens to grow into well rounded adults.

As librarians, it is up to us to create a collection that supports the members of our community, but how are we to do that when what is available is inaccurate? If these are the titles available, and tweens are looking to read up, then of course they're going to find the content a little more on the darker side of things. I think that creating standards in what is acceptable, not in the content itself, but the quality and representation of that content, is what we should be trying to do. I don't think this is censorship because again, it is not about omitting a book about teens getting in a bad situation, just making sure that there isn't a minority that is being incorrectly represented, when there is a better book available out there with a similar subject, just with a more fair outlook.

Younker, J., & Webb, S. (2005). Mind the Gap: What's missing in realistic teen fiction about minorities. Voice of Youth Advocates, 28(3), 197-201. Retrieved from Library Lit & Inf Full Text database at Persistent URL: http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com/hww/jumpstart.jhtml?recid=0bc05f7a67b1790e4741fae46b91d0b7f692a3af08f1d2bcbd8ee55ab4e909b9d3ec759df678c273&fmt=P

Younker, J. M., et. al., Mind the Gap: What's Missing in Realistic Teen Fiction About Minorities [Bibliographical essay]. Voice of Youth Advocates v. 28 no. 3 (August 2005) p. 197-201

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