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Policy Problem: Young Students want those Young Adult Novels...

  • Reading For Fun
  • Elementary

If you work in a district or school that has a separate primary school and middle school, this post may not apply. If you work in a K-8 environment, however, this issue is bound to come up eventually.

What do you do if you have a young student (3-5th grade) who has a high reading level and finds Young Adult Books (by definition ages 13-20) appealing? This is not just a matter of oops-I-may-get-a-call-from-a-very-angry-parent but one of School Library/Media policy!

Here are some tips to avoid and divert the uncomfortable question: Can I check this (Young Adult) book out today?

1. Check to see what policies are in place within your library

In my school, books for 6th through 8th graders were known as “Red Dot” books. YA books had a red sticker on them to denote they were for 6th to 8th graders only. Should a student in 5th or 4th grade want to check these books out, a signed permission slip was sent home and returned to me. In this permission slip, it was very explicitly stated what a YA book was and how the content is too mature for younger readers. This info went into the student database and came up as a note during checkout.

2. No policy? Write your own.

Take a look at your current Young Adult collection: is Hatchet the most mature book in your library? Or Divergent? Young Adult books written in what I call post-Twilight era (around 2006) are indeed racier than YA books of yesteryear. Then, talk to your administration on how to handle the issue and write the policy together or have administrative approval in case a disgruntled parent contacts you.

3. Use shelving to show the separation between middle-grade books and YA.

Separate units will show younger students that their book interest level is not the same as where the 8th graders look for their books. This is an easy change that requires some rearranging on your part.

4. Read book reviews or read the book before ordering

School Library Journal, GoodreadsAmazon, etc. Read all reviews-pay attention to ages these reviews suggest.

5. Talk to students individually

A simple way to handle a 4th grader looking at a YA book is to tell them although they might be able to read the words on the page and comprehend them, they will not understand some of the characters’ feelings or what the book wants readers to know or feel until they are older. Then divert to a similar-subject book for middle-grade readers. You’ll get a disappointed face, but it gives students something to look forward to as they advance grades.

Any more tips on how to combat this sometimes uncomfortable issue?