My knowledge of children’s literature is as extensive as my personal library.
I have shelves groaning with ‘golden books’( a remnant of my childhood), Blyton, Nesbit, Grimm, Anderson, Wilder (another remnant), Montgomery (mine), Alcott (yes… also mine), Lewis (mine), Anh Do (definitely not mine – Child #2), Harvey, Keene, K Kenny (mine), J Kenny ( not mine – Child #1), Dixon and Rowling to just name a few authors. This is not including the shelves full of board and picture books (child #1, #2 and #3) that have appealed to my minions thus far. But as I ponder this, and glance lovingly at my home library, I realise that I went straight from children’s books to the classics and then onto adult fiction. I had completely skipped the YA stage.
Young adult fiction as Tyle (2014) points out are books that are written for teenagers aged between 12-18 years old and (mostly) have teen protagonists as central characters. Compared to books aimed at children and adults, YA fiction should be able to present a teen’s perspective without sounding condescending or patronising. Pattee (2017) although prefers to call YA as emerging adult fiction or new adult fiction as she feels that this developmental phase could be more applicable to young adults between 18-25 years old. Her reasoning for this shift in age range is based upon when confusion and conflict occurs in identity as per Erikson’s psychological theory. Pattee (2017, p.220) suggests that a true identity crisis occurs later in life than in teen years as per previous theories.
This makes sense to me. It’s common knowledge that the brains of young people are not fully grown till their mid-twenties. After all, due to the increased risk of rash decision making, most car insurance companies charge younger drivers a higher excess compared to their older compatriots. Another thought to ponder is the age that modern ‘new adults’ actually start adult-ing (Pattee, 2017). With millennials delaying settling down with a partner and setting up their homes till their late 20’s and early 30’s; the time period for identity conflict and resolution is definitely being delayed.
When thinking back to my earlier readings I recall that children’s literature should address the behavioural, cognitive and emotional development of children. A good children’s book helps children grow and understand themselves and the world they live in. So a good YA novel should also do the same for young people. It should help them grow into adulthood. It should help them deal with coming of age issues like sexuality and relationships.
So back to my bookshelves of children’s literature. I would be the first to agree that my knowledge of children’s books are dated. But whilst I do feel its part of parenting that we share our favourite authors, soundtracks and movies with our children, we must also keep our minds open to them finding their own favourites. So my children and I have an agreement. Every time we go to the library they borrow whatever books they want to read, and then I get one I have enjoyed and then read that to them. This way they share with me their favourite books, I can share my love of literature, and at the same time expand my repertoire of titles.
I think yes.
Tyle, Leonie. Following the Michael L. Printz award Leonie Tyle muses on the definition of young adult fiction [online]. Magpies: Talking About Books for Children, Vol. 29, No. 4, Sep 2014: 16.