A BALANCED LITERARY DIET –
A FEAST OF GENRES.
Welcome to Module Two
Welcome to Module Two, in which we’re going to dive deeply into the wonderful wide world of genres!
Unless you have a very specific book club, like a Harry Potter club or a Fantasy club, I’m assuming that one of your bookclub goals is to encourage wide reading. Having taught tweens and teens for twenty years now, fifteen of those as teacher librarian, I have noticed that often the voracious readers roar through realistic fiction novels, but are less inclined to read non-fiction, graphic novels or fantasy. This is of course a generalisation, but it's something I’ve definitely noted over the years and, just recently, I had an example of this.
‘Lily’ has read pretty much every contemporary fiction novel in my library and I’ve had to borrow a fair few from the senior school library for her. She was not keen at all to read the fantasy novel we were reading in bookclub and loudly and dramatically told all who would listen that she would NEVER enjoy a fantasy novel – ‘Lily’ also is a pro speech and drama student and not shy at all! She did agree to give the novel a go, declaring every day that I saw her that she was ‘still not loving it’. At our meeting it was clear it wasn’t her favourite read of the year but she had a robust debate about the merits of the fantasy genre with some of her reading peers. She may never be an avid fantasy reader but she did indeed go on to the read the second book in the series (‘purely for research purposes Mrs Daley’) and I suspect she also learnt much from her read – fantasy authors are masters of building worlds and characters and they have to work so hard to make their storylines believable but also magical. Fantasy is absolutely not my favourite genre either, but I really have learnt so much from the (small) amount of fantasy reading I have done and have a far greater appreciation for the genre.
So this week? It’s all about reading widely and enjoying, or at least appreciating, a few different genres.
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Giving young people choice in what they read is crucial in developing a love of reading. Teacher librarians and school libraries are all about free-choice reading. However, encouraging young people to read widely and enjoy a balanced literary diet can add immeasurably to their enjoyment of recreational reading. I’ve expanded upon this in Chapter 8 of my book ‘Raising Readers’, but in a nutshell, I’m all about free-choice in reading and I am also an advocate for balance in all things – from eating to exercise to reading!
One of the greatest joys of being a member of a book club is finding literary gems you would not otherwise have found. Sometimes being ‘gently encouraged’ to read a book outside of your comfort zone for book club, or as a set text at school, can open minds to an entire other area of reading delight. Of course, we’re never going to enjoy every book that we read, but I believe that we learn something with every read, even if it’s that we really don’t enjoy dystopian fiction or reading film scripts.
Below, I am going to outline the major genres that your book club may want to tackle and give some ideas as to how this can be encouraged. There are a few downloadable and printable documents this week which I hope you will find useful!
Tristan Bancks asked some of Australia’s top children’s and teen authors to share a book that they read as a kid that changed their life in some way. Perhaps it showed them another way of being that they’d not considered before, or inspired them to make a positive difference or to become a reader or a writer. A fascinating read.
A light read but a great one to perhaps share with parents in a newsletter or via social media.
A link to listen to! Magic and Mayhem by The Australian Writers Centre is a children’s and teens lit series. It is full of interviews, writing tips, and oodles and oodles of reviews of the very best books in the world of children’s and YA lit in Australia.
Recipe idea to stash away for future meetings...
Set a goal for your book club reading for the year. You don’t need titles first up, but have a think about the genres you feel would be good ones for your group of readers to ‘tick off’ and note them down. The titles can come later!
Challenge yourself to read a middle grade or YA book completely out of your normal reading range. If you’ve never read a verse novel – start there! No idea what a dystopian novel is? Time to find out!
List the genres above, and as a group of parents, educators or librarians – start to lists book titles underneath each heading for the age range of your intended book club. You will be surprised just how many titles you can come up and one persons idea will spark another.