I read like a madwoman. More specifically, I read young adult literature like a madwoman. I do it because I love it but also because I buy a lot of reading books for school. In the business of converting children to the world of reading, it's important to be able to match the right book to the reader. And you gain a lot of street cred among the grade 7 -12 crowd if you can just get it right once. If you can find a reluctant reader just one book that he kinda sorta maybe doesn't hate, then he'll come back for more. And each time, you can up the ante with a longer book, a more sophisticated book, a more classic book, a book with a GIRL for a protagonist. And then his friend comes to borrow that first book, and you've got it made. But you have to gain their trust, which means you have to predict what they'll read, and to do that, you have to read. I LOVE this part of my job.
I meant to write this post in August, but life got away with me. My friend Michelle, our beloved bookseller, left Oblong Books and Music in August after 7 years of providing local children and adults with all the best in children's and young adult literature. Michelle reads more than I do and never failed to recommend a book I liked (and usually loved). She left Oblong to do something near and dear to my heart...teach Kindergarten. I've been thinking about Michelle a lot as I drive by her house or find a new, fantastic book, or encounter a new, challenged and challenging reader. I've been wondering how her new job is going and if her students know how lucky they are.
I say all this because today I went back to Oblong for the first time A.M. (after Michelle). I was there to pick out books for Kildonan's Parents' Day book sale, and Michelle would be proud. I think I picked out about 3 boxes full of books. It wasn't the same without Michelle, and that nice, innocent part-time woman working in Oblong, Jr. was okay but not great. She tried. I missed Michelle's enthusiasm and expertise, but I reminded myself that she's getting in at the ground level! She's creating readers before they even hit first grade! I also realized that I DO know what kinds of books appeal to young adults. I can trust my own instincts, and I can continue to read voraciously. It's research, after all. When my child is 16, I hope he'll have someone like me to lead him to great books, but I realize he'll be a lot more receptive to someone like me at 16 if he starts his education with someone like Michelle. That's wordy, but it does the job.
Read on. Get hooked. Read more. Pay it forward.