“My friends don’t really read books,” I have heard two of my children say – one a teenager and the other almost a teenager. That makes me rather sad because I remember my teenage years when discovering a new book to get lost in was always a source of joy for me.
Has the age of mobile phones really decimated a love for books in young people?
An article by The Bookseller, in February 2019, suggests that sales in Young Adult (YA) fiction has been decreasing with sales in 2018 being at its lowest point for eleven years. What are the possible reasons for this? Amongst other things, public book buying institutions in the UK such as schools and public libraries have had their funding slashed in recent years so they may not be buying as many YA novels. US authors also dominate YA fiction making it harder for UK authors to break through in the competitive YA market.
Yet for me, despite dwindling sales, Middle grade and YA fiction really matters.
They are a way of allowing children and teens to be introduced to diverse worlds that are different from their day to day existence. They can enable them to gain an understanding of people they see as different from them, thus helping them to empathise and have greater compassion and understanding for others. Fiction can be a means to challenge children and young people as well as stimulating their imagination. It can raise awareness about societal issues such as bullying, racism, etc plus encourage young people to think and reflect.
For ethnic minority children, fiction in which they can see ethnic minority characters, especially an ethnic minority main character, can inspire and serve as a form of validation.
Dr Rudine Sims Bishop, in a 1990 article Mirrors, Windows and Sliding Glass Doors stated, “When children cannot find themselves reflected in the books they read or when the images they see are distorted, negative or laughable, they learn a powerful lesson about how they are devalued in the society of which they are a part.”
Melanie Ramdarshan, in an article in the Publishing Research Quarterly September 2018 entitled, The Eight Percent Problem: Authors of Colour in the British Young Adult Market (2006-2016), found that, in the UK, 90% of the best-selling YA books, from 2006 to 2016, had white, able-bodied, heterosexual main characters. With regard to children’s book authors, only 8% of young adult authors published in the UK were black.
I’m really excited to be going to the Luton African Books, Arts and Crafts Fest 2019, organised by Simply Deez Events, which seeks, amongst other things, to support Black authors and encourage black children to read. Click on this link for further information. It would be great to see as many people as possible there.
Children and young people, please continue to read for pleasure. You will get so much out of it.
Stay blessed xx