CAUTION: Contents May be Graphic (aka Reality in Teen Fiction)

How much reality is too much? And if it is FICTION, how real could it be?

There is some pretty graphic reality fiction on the YA shelves today – detailed descriptions and literary depictions that are shocking and frightening.  I think in any discussion about intellectual freedom in the library and the protections we all must be cognizant of in our services to youth, particularly teens and young adult patrons. We must be able to recognize quality materials even when the contents may be personally repugnant to us. As professionals, we must always remember that the library is a repository of our community and culture – a collective of our world really. And that means the happy endings as well as the tragedies must be found there. The scary things in the world, whether imagined or real, must be represented. We must find the safest and most thoughtful way to curate those things that may have the most profound impacts, but we must fairly and equitably develop our collections with great intent and careful purpose.

The debate rages today, as it has since The Outsiders appeared on shelves in 1967, as to whether it is beneficial or even necessary for teens to read fiction that is “too real.” Topics that are uncomfortable are precisely the things teens want to know about – and read about. But these same topics (drug and alcohol abuse, incest, violence, sexual assault, neglect, homophobia, LGBTQ issues, etc.) are part of real life and always have been. The only thing tat has changed is the force with which these topics are pushing through into the YA collections on our shelves today. More than ever, very extreme behaviors that are disturbing such as eating disorders, self-mutilation, suicide are frequent topics for teen books and may be seen either as validation of the teen experience or a possible threat to some of our most vulnerable adolescent charges who may be influenced or impacted negatively by these topics and images.

As librarians working with youth, we must always be mindful of our duties to provide the best possible materials with the greatest variety available. It is critical that we forge relationships with our patrons and that we continually examine our library contents with a critical eye and familiarize ourselves with the items on our shelves. We have the added duty to be always mindful of the strengths and vulnerabilities of the youth we serve and remain sensitive to our communities at large.

Reality in teen books I think is a moving target. Judy Blume was too explicit and graphic in 1970; today, Lauren Myracle is showing a teen reality that none of us wants to believe truly exists today. The reality is that teens are only teens in the moment and their reality is the only one that matters to them. I think it is critical for us as librarians to meet them where they are in their own lives – in their realities, one patron at a time.

Wall Street Journal – “Darkness Too Visible: Contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea?”

By Meghan Cox Gurdon, June 4, 2011

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Bookopolis = “Goodreads for kids”


Bookopolis – a social gathering place for kids to share book reviews and recommendations, earn digital badges for sharing their opinions about what they read, expand their own reading based on other recommendations, and find out more about the books they love as well as those they WILL love?! What could be better? About.

For teachers looking for ways to get kids to read more and collaborate, communicate and critically think about it – I highly recommend using Bookopolis with your students. It is a site for kids – grown-ups stay out (mostly – teachers can use the dashboard to see how things are going).

You just have to see it to believe it.

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Cool Tool | Tynker

OK – I am no programmer but this tool is amazing and it does exactly what it says it will: allows students to perform PBL tasks with minimal prior experience and build on knowledge they develop as they move through the courses. Oh, and it’s fun! imagine that – lessons that keep kids engaged and actually make them smile at the same time. STEM – gotta love it!

CREDIT TynkerProgramming is the new literacy, the people behind this company believe, and the ability to program is what separates those who simply have an idea from those who make their ideas a reality. Tynker is a new online platform that easily and successfully teaches students introductory computer programming, so they can learn how to code through the activities they already love: games and stories. Tynker lessons not only make it easy for students to understand abstract programming concepts, but they learn how to apply concepts to different projects, games and scenarios that they enjoy. They can use their coding skills to easily create games and quizzes, and animations that explain math concepts, or complex science topics. With this curriculum, students learn the fundamentals of programming language without the frustrations of traditional syntax. These benefits also meet many of the criteria demanded by today’s rigorous standards, and kids are also learning…

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