Nonfiction to Help Teenagers Learn Who They Are and Where They Fit
When young adult specialist Patty Campbell spoke at an American Library Association annual meeting, she pointed out that teenagers are so wrapped up in what the psychologists have labeled the "adolescent identity crisis" that they have neither the time for nor the interest in sitting down and reading about the world in general. What they are looking for are books that help them decide on who they are and where they fit into the scheme of things. Informative books they judge to be helpful include sex education books, some physical and mental health books, selected how-to books, and biographies or true accounts of experiences teenagers can imagine themselves or their acquaintances having. Nearly all the other information books published for teenagers are read under duress—only because teachers assign reports and research papers.
Teenagers especially appreciate books that give advice on managing one's life and being successful right now. Marie Hardenbrook, librarian at McClintock High School in Tempe, Arizona, says that over the last few years her "Inspirational" display and booklist has been consistently popular. She includes such sports-related books as Richard E. Peck's Something for Joey, William Blinn's Brian's Song, Steve Cameron's Brett Favre: Huck Finn Grows Up, and Shannon Miller's Winning Every Day: Gold Medal Advice for a Happy, Healthy Life. The runaway best loaners, however, are Jack Canfield's books including two volumes of Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul: 101 Stories of Life, Love, and Learning; Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul: Stories about Pets as Teachers, Healers, Heroes, and Friends; and Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul: 101 Stories to Open the Hearts and Rekindle the Spirits of Women. There are also books that answer more specific kinds of questions that kids ask about both themselves and each other; for example,
Can I get AIDS from French kissing?
Do I have diabetes?
Why do I feel like crying all the time?
How serious is herpes?
What's the difference between just trying a drug and becoming addicted?
If I'm pregnant, what are my options?
What's an STD?
Is being fat really unhealthy?
What causes pimples?
What happens if someone has Hodgkin's disease?
My mother has breast cancer. Is she going to die?
Is anorexia nervosa just in a person's head?
Why does my grandfather say such strange things? Will I be like that when I'm old?
What will happen if I have venereal disease and don't go to the doctor?
The best books offering answers to such questions have good indexing, clear writing, suggestions for further reading, and, where appropriate, information about Web pages, telephone numbers, and support groups. The Need to Know Library, put out by Rosen publishers, is a dependable series of self-help books. Each book is sixty-four pages and includes a glossary, index, photos, and suggestions for further reading. With self-help books, girls make up the majority of readers; hence authors and publishers work hard to create such books as Erika V. Shearin Karres's Mean Chicks, Cliques, and Dirty Tricks: A Real Girts Guide to Getting Through the Day with Smarts and Style and Girlsource: A Book by and for Young Women About Relationships, Rights, Futures, Bodies, Minds, and Souls. And even a more neutral sounding title such as Florence Cadier and Melissa Daly's My Parents Are Getting Divorced: How to Keep It Together When Your Parents Are Splitting Up will probably attract more girl than boy readers.
© ______ 2009, Allyn & Bacon, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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