What do children prefer? This may seem like an easy question to answer considering all were once a child. However, this may not be so simple when reality sets in that adults do not instantly think as children. I have learned that children often prefer books with pictures and graphics. According to Charlotte Huck’s Children’s Literature, picture books are defined as “those books in which images and ideas join to form a unique whole” (Kiefer, 2010). Picture books include wordless, non-fiction, and concept picture books. Another type of picture book comes in the form of Graphic Novels. Graphic novels (GNs) are great for children grades 4-8 because they powerfully attract and encourage kids to read (Brenner, 2015); especially young boys which are traditionally harder to stimulate reading habits. Youngsters who struggle to read, English language learners, and special needs students all can benefit from reading GNs. As stated by a teen in the video, Graphic Novels Draw Kids into Reading, GNs are “more exciting than regular books…” (Westhill High School students, 2012), and they actually learn and enjoy reading them. One graphic novel that children (boys in particular) seem to enjoy is The Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
Furthermore, children take pleasure in books that they can relate to in terms of gender. Middle school aged children go through many changes that affects them socially, mentally, emotionally, and physically. By the time eighth grade is reached, most children have already shown signs of beginning puberty. As a result, many of them face self-image and emotional issues. According to Psychology Today, adolescence is a ten to twelves year phase in which a child is transformed into an independent adult (Pickhardt, 2010). This period of adolescence includes puberty, and is the time when youngsters often feel ashamed of the changes occurring within them. For this matter, they confide in the opportunity to read books that speaks directly to their gender group; in hopes of relating on similar issues they face during this period of many changes.
Children have their own unique way of making their presence known in our society. They think and feel differently from adults. Adults tend to think in terms of using what they already know for survival of everyday life. So, it is only natural that the preferences of adults differ from that of a child. The role of an adult exists to educate and mold the mind of a child into a “mature grown-up” that is able to survive on his/her own. Therefore, adults often feel that children should read books that educate them as well. Books that encourage the idea fantasy and make believe are far from ideal in the majority of adults’ mind. Many feel that such books do not encourage a real sense of reality. For this matter, adults feel more at ease with children reading Contemporary Realistic Fiction (CRF) instead of Fantasy and Science Fiction. CRF books such as Hatchet, The Fault in Our Stars, and Bridge to Terabithia, are great stories that convey the harsh realities of some of life’s unfortunate situations. With the help of CRFs, adults can help children understand and come to terms with human relationships and problems that can occur in within their lifetime (Kiefer, 2009). Although this is not actually a form of non-fiction, the stories that the author writes, within this genre, are realistic or can happen in reality; hence the “realistic fiction”, part of the title.
Additionally, children prefer pictures books such as Graphic Novels, but adults have a tendency to disregard them and place them under the category of entertainment. Due to the lack of “word content”, adults (parents in particular) suggest that children are not learning from reading these types of books. Many adults also feel that the term “graphic” is used to describe sexual content, thus meaning that GNs are not meant for the adolescent population. Finally, adults want children to read books that they can identify with. Contrary to many adult’s feelings towards picture books like Graphic Novels, children actually are learning from reading these books; they are visually learning.
Finally, Gender-based books were a good tool for helping children find their role in society. Recently, however, adults have become worried about the messages that some gender based books advertise. These particular books contain messages that can distort the normal image a young boy and/or young girl. For example, The Boy in the Dress and Gracefully Grayson, are books that may promote gender confusion since these books convey a message that says it is normal and perfectly fine to feel like a girl stuck in a boy’s body (or vice versa). Therefore, adults often question if these ideas should be acceptable and normal to aid in the developmental behavior of a child. Parents of younger children, in this case, can supervise the type of books their children read. This way, parents can make sure their child do not come across any reading material that might contradict their childrearing methods and beliefs. With the exception of the Contemporary Realistic Fiction, all of these types of books are great non-fiction that any child and parent, can enjoy.
Here are some websites and lists of books to read:
- Reading Rockets: http://www.readingrockets.org/books/nonfiction-for-kids
- National Geographic Kids: http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/
- Discovery Kids: http://discoverykids.com/
- Smithsonian Education: http://www.si.edu/Kids (short cut) http://www.smithsonianeducation.org/students/index.html
- National Wildlife Federation: http://www.nwf.org/kids.aspx
- Ducksters: http://www.ducksters.com/history/
Non-fiction Books for kids
- Witches: The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salemby Rosalyn Schanzer
- I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai, Christina Lamb
- What Are You?: Voices of Mixed-Race Young People by Pearl Fuyo Gaskins
- Who was first? Discovering the Americas by Russell Freedman
- Chew on This: Everything You Don’t Want to Know About Fast Food by Charles Wilson and Eric Schlosser
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
- Bone, Vol. 1: Out from Boneville by Jeff Smith
- Amulet, Vol. 1: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi
- Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
- Rapunzel’s Revenge by Dean Hale
Gender Reading for Girls
- Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows
- Are you there God? It’s me, Margret by Judy Blume
Gender Reading for Boys
- Bomb: The Race to Build the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheiken
- America is Under Attack: September 11, 2001: The Day the Towers Fell By: Dan Brown
Hardenbrook, J. (2014). Mr. Library Dude. You’ve come a Long Way Baby? Gender Stereotypes in Children’s Picture Books. Retrieved from: https://mrlibrarydude.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/youve-come-along-way-baby-gender-stereotypes-in-childrens-picture-books/
Brendler, Beth M. (2014). Blurring gender lines in reader’s advisory for young adults. Reference and Users Services Quarterly, 53 (3), 221-224.
Parsons, Les. (2004). Challenging the gender divide: Improving literacy for all. TeacherLibrarian, 32 (2), 8-11
Scott, Denise. (2014). Deconstructing the “Books for Boys” discourse. Progressive Librarian, Summer (Issue 42), 115-122