All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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The MashUp: A Blog About Books For Teens

Jamie Watson: The MashUp Blogger

Jamie Watson is's consultant for young adult literature. Jamie is a reviewer for School Library Journal and she is active in the Young Adult Library Services Association, serving on several of its committees, including Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers and Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults. She is a librarian in suburban Baltimore.

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Get Graphic

May 11, 2009
Ten years ago, graphic novels were known by a small but devoted group of people. Now, the graphic novel business has exploded, mainstream bookstores devote large amounts of real estate to them, and most libraries not only collect them, but have manga clubs where teens can discuss them. Schools have caught the fever too, notably in Maryland.

However, there are still those who are trying to figure out a way to get graphic novels into their classrooms, to read them with their kids, to promote them with library customers. A fabulous site no matter where you are in your knowledge of the format is Get Graphic.

Organized by the Buffalo & Erie County library, Get Graphic is beautifully designed with talking points, facts, booklists and news, to help the novice and entice the expert equally. There are pdfs and PowerPoints that can be used.

Go there now!

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It's New to You

May  1, 2009

In my continuing effort to read the classics, I decided to listen to The Bell Jar, as read by Maggie Gyllenhaal, on a recent 7 hour solo car trip. Friends warned me against it. "You'll be so depressed! That sounds awful!" they all chimed.

Gyllenhaal was a great reader, and I was drawn into the story. But I wasn't depressed at all. The Bell Jar is not exactly chick lit (although, there are some similarities--man troubles, friends as your biggest comfort, a career woman new to the city!) but I didn't find it as gloomy and doomy as I'd expected. Mainly, I think that's because I'd read lots of the "young girls with mental illness" books when I was a teen myself. Lisa, Bright and Dark.  I Never Promised You a Rose Garden and  Sybil. Plus, I'd read a lot of the ones from more recent years, such as those by Sonya Sones and Ellen Hopkins.

Of course, without The Bell Jar, these books likely wouldn't exist. But that didn't change the fact that for me, The Bell Jar wasn't the first in the canon, it was about the 50th.

This is so important to keep in mind when you work with young people. We need to remember that for teens, this is their first vampire book, strong female fantasy, chick lit. Especially for those of us who read widely, it is so easy to become jaded when you read yet another of a certain genre.

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Support Teen Literature Day

April 15, 2009

April 16 is Support Teen Literature Day. Though the obvious audience for teen literature day is teens; there's a large adult following for young adult literature, too. Many of the most popular young adult books of the last several years have crossed over to older audiences--Twilight and the Harry Potter series have been read by discussed in adult book groups.

But library and bookstore shelves are full of other books that could appeal to adults as well.

1. Teen angst. Often those who don't know much about YA literature deride the genre as all teen angst."But what are Oprah books? Full of stories of addiction, unfulfilling relationships, children dying, suburban malaise? In other words, adult angst. Angst is often what makes a story good. Try such books as Mary Pearson's A Room on Lorelei Street and John Green's Looking for Alaska.

2. Escapism. Lots of teens read purely to escape (see Twilight and Harry Potter, but they also escape into other people's problems, which explains the perennial popularity of A Child Called It. What can be more escapist for an adult than the problems of a teenager?

3. Based on a movie. Again, our obvious two, but there are many other movies that were teen fiction books first - and they aren't all obvious! Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Invisible, and All the Way (the movie was called Sex Drive) are three from just the past year alone.

  4. Literary Quality. YA lit detractors might also be shocked at the high literary quality of some of today's most popular YA novels. Also, many books published as YA here in the states were actually published as adult novels overseas. Really, this genre labeling is just a marketing tool, and doesn't mean much more than that. Look to The Book Thief, or the books of M.T. Anderson for some great examples of literary fiction. Or take a look at the Printz Awards list.

5. What's in a Label?  Honestly, many books have sophisticated covers, plots, and presentation. If they weren't sitting on a young adult shelf, but just in a general display or new book area, or given as a gift, many readers wouldn't even know.

Happy Support Teen Literature Day!

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Jacqueline Woodson

April  5, 2009
This week I was fortunate enough to hear YA author Jacqueline Woodson speak. I've generally found that if you're a fan, hearing an author speak deepens your interest in their work; and if you're not a fan, hearing an author speak may help you see the author in a new light. For some teens, getting to meet someone who has written some of your favorite books can be life changing.

Woodson was a warm and engaging speaker--she talked about the inspiration for many of her works. She read (or rather recited from memory) some of her picture books which came to life in new ways, especially the picture book Show Way . She was candid about her initial dislike of some of the illustrations of her picture books, and how she has come to love them now. Woodson was generous with her time--talking to everyone who was getting a book signed, giving advice to aspiring writers, and answering burning questions about her books. (Yes, Show Way really is autobiographical.)

Seeing a touring author is a wonderful (and often free!) thing to do. Of course, you'll have an easier time doing this in a major city, which has libraries and bookstores to host the events. But as in many other arenas, the internet is leveling the playing field somewhat. Readergirlz has a featured book and frequently a live chat with the author of the book. Most author websites will tell you if an author is coming nearby. Another possibility is contacting the publisher to see if an author would do a teleconference with your book group or maybe even a videoconference. Authors answer email, have Facebook pages and Twitter. All in all, it's easier than ever to make reading a book not necessarily a one-way transaction.

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