I’ve been asked by friends, colleagues, and family members, “Why do you read kid’s books?” My current position is more administrative. I no longer book talk to kids (or their parents), my daily duties do not include keeping circulation statistics up, and I don’t have to go into the schools and give my opinions on the latest Nutmeg nominees. My first few months of administration work, I did read adult books. I read the hottest thrillers, National Book Award winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, classics I somehow missed during my English undergrad days.
At first it was exhilarating! I could read whatever I wanted for the first time in my life since I was…in high school? No more reading for a test, to compile a list, for my next book club choice, for appropriate content, for my reluctant readers, for my advanced readers, for my next field trip. No more…anything!
For about two months, I read only adult books. And I was…wholly unsatisfied. Some stories introduced frivolous characters that had no reason for being, some novels droned on and on with minute details that nobody ever needs to know, others had amateurish or predictable endings. After the shine wore off, I marched right back into the Children’s Room scouring the newest releases.
I found a kindred spirit with Frances Pauley. I connected with Nan Sparrow as she fought for her cause while grappling with grief. I endured the loneliness of Peter until he met Pax. I felt the abandonment that Livy put Bob through while she struggled to find her own way. I had a strong sense of belonging as Aru Shah lit the lamp.
I keep reading these amazing stories for a multitude of reasons. The writing doesn’t stray, they are filled with metaphors, and are relatable in some way to everyone. Once you crossover to adult fiction, it gets so murky. As a reader you have so many judgements of characters based on their job, their political or religious affiliation, their romantic partner, the way of their chosen path. If the characters are kids, you have no judgement on how they’ve gotten to be where they are–circumstances are just out of their control. You feel empathy and root for them. Their struggles remind me that my own are temporary. I am never alone. I have the same inner battles. And if I survived adolescence, I can certainly get through this adventure called adulthood!
Why do you read middle grade fiction?