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Young Adult Literature: Issues, Trends & Appreciation

Instructor: Correne Constantino

Correne has been teaching for 15 years! She has experience in elementary, middle school, as well as, college level instruction. She has a Bachelor's Degree in elementary education and a Master's Degree in early literacy.

Young adults often struggle to see how literature can play a role in life. What types of literature can we share to help motivate them to become lifelong readers? How can we help students want to read and become lifelong readers? This lesson will encourage you to explore some simple options and strategies in order to foster young adult readers.

Have you wandered through Barnes and Noble or searched for books online or at your local library? You may have noticed that many of the most popular books displayed are from the young adult (YA) genre. The YA literature genre, literature meant for 12-18 year olds, is one of the fastest growing genres and has been on the rise since 2013. That is a mighty feat when you consider that this demographic is a challenging age group to engage and inspire. This lesson will look at some of these challenges, and present strategies to help inspire lifelong readers as well as help improve reading appreciation among young people.

The Challenges & Benefits of Recommending Literature

Because of the large array of literature available to young people and their sometimes, lack of interest, adults need to be aware of what students are reading. Young adults need help choosing books that are appropriate as well as foster a love of lifelong reading.

Hot Topics

Many topics found in today's YA genre can have very sensitive and questionable subject matter, such as suicide, gender confusion, divorce, bullying, and cyber-bullying. These topics can cause some controversy, and what is appropriate for one student might not be for another. Many newly released books are being challenged or removed from libraries because of the tense, questionable topics. While some schools and communities ban books, others use them to spur discussion within a safe classroom environment. Knowing your audience and doing your research is important when helping young adults choose books.

Engaging Your Reader

But how do you keep young people engaged? One simple strategy is to help them to find books that they can connect with and discuss. The key to doing this simple act is to know your readers! When a young person finds a book that allows them to connect with the characters, situation, conflict, or setting, they are more likely to enjoy what they are reading. The challenge of this simple task is that you must know books. You must be reading the books that your young audience is reading, especially if it is about a hot topic. You must be prepared to discuss issues or answer questions that your young adult readers might have. You can't recommend books without doing your research.

Encouraging Love of Literature

When you are reading a great book what do you want to do? You want to talk about it with others, right? Encourage young adults to do the same. Model how to have a book discussion: ask the student questions, share your favorite part of the story, or share a personal connection you had with the book. Discussion or discourse is a must-use strategy when working with young people. Not only does discussion allow them to understand their book more deeply, it allows them to internalize and connect with material, especially in the case of those books with a sensitive issue. Showing students that you care and are interested in what they are reading speaks volumes and is motivational in itself.

When readers are actively reading books that they connect with and are encouraged to engage in discussion, they are being taught to read for life. They are seeing what it is like to read as an adult and that it can be fulfilling in many ways.

Young Adult Literature

So what should young adults read? Let's take a look at some fiction and nonfiction books and authors that are popular with young adults right now.

Fiction

The majority of young readers gravitate toward fiction or make-believe genres (fantasy, realistic fiction, sci-fi, adventure). The options for young adult readers are endless; however the trends in fiction literature focus around three categories:

  • Escape (from life or to new worlds)
  • Romance
  • Social Issues

Escape

Readers want to have an adventure and explore other worlds and times. This type of book increases engagement and the love and enjoyment of reading for any reader.

The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare

The 5th Wave series by Rick Yancey

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard

The Maze Runner series by James Dashner

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