The Dog Ear: Never too young or too old
Published: Monday, September 30, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 30, 2013 22:09
The New York Times divides their bestseller lists into multiple categories. I have always noticed that there are specific lists for “Young Adult,” “Children’s Middle Grade” and “Children’s Series.” Since these distinctions are made, are the remaining categories assumed to be strictly “adult books?” In my opinion, dividing books into these supposed age-appropriate categories is restrictive and prevents you from seeing which books are truly the bestsellers. It would be interesting to see how young adult and children’s books would fare on the bestseller list if clumped with the fiction and nonfiction categories. Would they be spread evenly throughout the list or would they dominate at the top or bottom?
When these distinctions are made, certain books risk being immediately ignored by readers, depending on their age. If a 40-year-old is searching for a good book to read, they will most likely look at the fiction and nonfiction bestseller lists; lists that exclude young adult and children’s books. Conversely, a 13-year-old will be directed towards the young adult and children’s lists. This automatically prevents both parties from potentially finding a great book simply because they have eliminated particular categories.
I feel that these discrepancies have the ability to hold younger readers back. Some assume that the child would not appreciate a book aimed toward adults or would not be able to understand it. This is very true, depending on the book. You would not give your third grader a copy of “Gone with the Wind” and expect them to get through it. However, a younger reader may be bored with the topics he or she is expected to enjoy at their age. They may find themselves with interests more aligned with adult books but may never realize this if their reading experiences never include them. This can hold them from learning new vocabulary and information.
Adults can find themselves thoroughly enjoying books in the young adult or children’s category as well. However, they may feel embarrassed that they are enjoying a book categorized for youngsters. Embarrassment should not occur when you think of children’s book successes like “Harry Potter.” Is it really a children’s series though? Maybe the first few books in the series were, but as the series progressed, the books became noticeably darker and more mature. When adults read to their children, they became fans of the books, bringing together readers of all ages. This shows that the distinctions are arbitrary.
I wonder if authors who are considered writers of young adult or children’s books have a harder time being taken seriously for their work. Is there a stigma associated with writing for younger people as opposed to adults? Hopefully not.
I feel a book should not automatically be ignored just because the reader may not fit the theoretical age bracket the book was aimed towards. From my experiences, books are on a spectrum. Some are more suited for adults than others, but they all have elements that everyone can enjoy and find meaningful. The author wrote the book to be read and will be happy, regardless of the reader’s age, to know the book was worthy of someone’s time.