Thursday, March 3, 2011

To Share or Not to Share; How does one Decide what Books to Recommend to Youth? Part 2

The Birth of Human Intelligence, an image by ©AlienCat -

This image may only be used with permission of It is used here by Valerie Coskrey, who purchased a license for its use.

Some RFFers' Thoughts on Favorite Books

Have you read Part 1?

Mary, a teacher, wrote,
"I found that as a kid -- 4th grade and up -- I was generally drawn to "classic" authors with minimal gore and/or sexual content. I tend to recommend books like that to kids as well."

To which Alberto responded,
My 11-year-old is very interested in History and Greek Mythology; I can't think of any science fiction that has _more_ gore and sexual content than History and Greek Mythology.

Again, Mary responded, "Point well taken! (Of course, our school doesn't teach Greek and Roman Mythology either.)"

Librarian Sandy Moltz added these criteria,
"I think you have to take a number of factors into consideration when recommending an adult science fiction book. Difficulty of the language, length of the book can be reasons I wouldn't recommend an adult book. For example, I love Neal Stephenson but think that Cryptonomican is too long for a lot of kids.

"Also, many kids who read above their age level aren't ready emotionally for all adult books. I'm lucky enough to be in a small library where I usually get to talk to the kids and have a sense of what works for them. For example, a very smart 5th grader may not be ready for a book that has a violent rape scene (I don't have a specific title in mind, this is just a hypothetical example).

"I often recommend Brightness Reef, Blood Music, and The Man in the High Castle. For some, I'll suggest Snow Crash, William Gibson, China Mieville, and Orson Scott Card's Pastwatch.

Dave chimed in with books he asked Sandy to consider.
"What about David Gerrald's The Man Who Folded Himself or Bruce Coville's Skull of Truth or Orson Scott Card's Enderverse?

"Dave Farland aka Dave Wolferton wrote On My Way To Paradise (c) 1987 Bridge Publications, Inc He expanded it into a novel. I have given copies through RFF Utah. Dave does not see it as YA.

"The Man Who Folded Himself is very adult in subject matter. RFFUtah sent it to a Junior High School teacher in Davis CA for the club library.

"School of Truth is that when the skull from Hamlet is in the room you can only tell the truth. The younger brother tells the family he is gay. The family says so, we have known that for years.

"Scott aka Noam D. PLUME, Byron WALLEY, Dinah KIRKHAM wrote plays and edited/wrote LDS magazines. He invented the game when he was 17. Ben Bova, Analog editor, said he would never buy a it-is-a-computer-game story. Changed his mind. Ender's Game was nominated for a Hugo and lost. Scott had a book contract to write Speaker for the Dead but expanded Ender to a book. Both books won Hugos and Nebullas. The Ender books according to Scott are grades 7, 8 and 9. The Bean cycle (Ender's Shadow, Shadow of the Hegemon and Shadow Puppets) I used the original Ender at 2001 MilPhil and after 9/11 in an alternate high school. The students wrote about the ethics of training young children to kill. This Rustycon a woman said she would never recommend the Enderverse to kids. TOR sends boxes of Ender to inner city schools."

Tentative Conclusions

In our search for criteria to use in recommending an adult to a YA audience, we have conflicting values to reconcile. Some, including me, see no problem with youth reading about controversial subjects, alternative life styles, a bit of violence, and limited sexual content. I notice that so far there has been no mention of profanity. So many science fiction authors use little to none profanity in their books that some might consider this a non-issue.

So far we have these 5 questions to ask about a book.

  • Does the young adult have the reading skills for the reading level and length of the book?
  • Is the book one with enough action to interest a young reader?
  • Is the violence, sexual content and profanity handled in such a way that one would not mind one's grandmother reading the book? (RE: Part 1)
  • Is the young reader emotionally mature enough to handle the subject matter?
  • Do I know this young reader well enough to push the limits?

Although many science fiction books are written for an adult autdience, there are some that are highly instrutive, just plain fun, or both that young adults, grades middle school through high school, would enjoy. After all, the bottom line for promoting literacy is to foster the enjoyment of reading.

There is more to come. Look for Part 3 at a later date.


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