Young Adult books! Demons! Vampires! Teen sex! Ugh.
I have become dismayed by our local libraries (Phoenix, Peoria, and to a much lesser extent, Glendale, Arizona*). The selection in the teen sections is especially disheartening. I really try not to find the balance between… providing a wholesome upbringing for my children, without being too overbearing, while giving my children lots of opportunities to make their own decisions. But, the teen section in our local Phoenix Public Library branch is so filled with crap that my 13yo son will not look for his own books there; he asks me to pick them out for him. This means that, typically, he will stay on the opposite side of the library, watching his little sisters in the toddler read & play area, while I’m (mostly fruitlessly) trolling the stacks for worthwhile volumes.
Literally, at least 75% of the selection has something to do with
- teen sex, or
- vampires, or
- demons, or
- a combination of teen sex and/or vampires and/or demons
Even simply reading the spines of the books is enough for my son to walk away feeling slimed.
A singular example: Yesterday, I found a book called 7 Days at the Hot Corner. In baseball lingo, “the hot corner” is 3rd base. “Great!” I thought, “A teen book about baseball!” Before putting it in the keeper stack, I flipped through the book. A few words leaped out at me. I delved a little deeper, for all of about two minutes, and quickly discovered that a major plot-line had to do with the protagonist accepting the gayness of his best friend and teammate. Um, no. As a baseball player, could Ethan go through a similar situation, some time in the future? Possibly, and if he does, I would help him deal in kindness with the teammate (while affirming our personal standards as Christians). But, does he need to read about it at age 13? I don’t think so. And, I really don’t want him getting “tips” for such situations from a young adult novel of very questionable moral standards. (The book, by the way, is recommended for 6th grade/age 12 and up.)
The selection is so paltry, we typically walk away with only one or two (occasionally up to four) “good” books. My boys read more than that — usually six or so books, weekly, and I’m having a hard time keeping up. So, I recently asked some friends to give some recommendations for teen/older kid reading, to combat the difficulty we’re having. I got a fabulous and quite lengthy list from my friend Kathy, who has a special love for young adult fiction, supplemented with suggestions from others, including those of a distant cousin of mine who is a librarian in a public middle school.
I’ve been able to find most of the books in the Phoenix Public Library system, though virtually all of them are at other branches. In order to obtain them, I max out the hold requests on my card: My library will let me request up to three books at a time. My approach is working fairly well, though slowly. Ethan reminded me, yesterday, that we could use his card, too. Duh. Since we go weekly to the library, and we can have up to 35 books on my card, we typically only use his card for the infrequent times we need “overflow” room. I find it difficult enough to keep tabs on my own card and 35 books, let alone two cards and 70. But… if using his card means that we can have SIX books on hold, I’m in!
One of the books we picked up yesterday off of the hold shelf was of Kathy’s recommendation, The Hero and the Crown. It’s a Newbery winner, and I’ve read and enjoyed (in my adulthood) one of the author’s other books, Beauty. After I read the back, and saw that the protagonist is a girl, I thought that, perhaps, Ethan wouldn’t be as interested. He scooped it up and carried it off, saying over his shoulder, “I don’t care that the protagonist is a girl!” I love that kid.
If your approach to children’s books is along the lines of, “At least they’re reading!” I would suggest that you reconsider. The books on the shelves of most libraries are NOT what was on the shelves when you were a kid.
I agree it can be taken too far: I specifically remember my mother being horrified when she found out that I had read Bridge to Terebithia. With its imaginary land, the book fit into her broad category of “occult” which was strictly taboo. Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology was off-limits, too. I do agree that there can be a fine line there… There are some really fabulous fantasy books (The Redwall series, the Perelandra trilogy, the 100 Cupboards trilogy, Rick Riordan’s books, et al), and some really, really, really, really… awful ones.
You do have to dig.
~sigh~ I’m digging.
If any of you have suggestions, please do share!!
*I’d make the small trek to the closest Glendale Library, as its selection of young adult books is by far the widest, and most balanced (though I’m not a HUGE fan of most Christian fiction, I think it’s telling when a library is willing to stock a large portion of current Christian fiction), and its librarians are the BEST. However, since I don’t live within the city limits, the cost for a card is $40/year, which I did pay for a number of years. However, in my continual effort to save our family money, I decided about a year ago to limit our library patronage to those that are free.