Children's Literature at ALA

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One of the best programs I went to at ALA in Anaheim was on children's literature, "Beyond Frog and Toad: Transitional Books for Children." Although I am no longer a children's librarian, I'm still a part-time Education librarian, as well as a parent and children's book lover, so an indulgence in a program on one of my favorite topics seemed appropriate.

The whole notion of "transitional" books (that is, books for kids who have outgrown easy readers but are not quite ready for longer Harry-Potter style novels) is relatively new; according to one of the program presenters, Andrea Zevenbergen, a reading specialist, the first transitional book was The Stories Julian Tells, published in 1981. This book was enormously popular with the kids I worked with in a lower-income, mostly African-American neighborhood. Like many transitional books, Julian is about the everyday things kids are interested in, friends, family, school, siblings.

Transitional books are not just for kids who've recently left Frog and Toad behind. My own 9-year-old daughter, who is a fairly good reader and able to read Harry Potter, loves the Owen Foote books by Stephanie Greene. Some of her other favorites are the Time Warp Trio series by Jon Scieszka (who, incidentally, has probably done more than anyone to inspire boys to read) and Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid by Megan McDonald.

I've always been of the mind that children should (and will) read what they enjoy, regardless of whether it's considered "great literature" or whether it's for the "right" age group. I've seen kids who struggle with reading come back to the library again and again because they found an author or series that captured their imaginations.

When I tell other adults that I'm a librarian, they often tell me they don't read much, but think that they "should." Reading shouldn't be a chore that's supposed to be good for you, like eating kashi. If kids (and adults) don't love reading, maybe their reading the wrong things.

A great website for more information about transitional books is the Gryphon Award page, sponsored by the Center for Children's Books.

The Frog and Toad presentation and handouts are available on the ALA Wiki under Saturday June 28, 4 pm programs.

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      I am a reference and instruction librarian at Penn State University Libraries in Library Learning Services and Education and Behavioral Sciences.       

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