October 7, 2010

Recent Trends Assignment - Part 1

Last week in my Materials for Youth class we read and discussed recent trends, graphic novels/manga, & street lit.  Today I'll post my reaction to Gossip Girl, and tomorrow I'll post my reaction to Bone: Out from Boneville. It was appropriate that last week's topics coincided with Banned Books Week! Both of the books I chose to read have been challenged.

When I taught high school English, I noticed that my students who claimed to hate reading were carrying around graphic novels/manga, the Gossip Girl series, and the Twilight series. When I would ask them what made those books different, they would respond with statements such as, "It's just fun to read because the story is interesting." As Gallo points out, "What teens want more than anything else from novels is entertainment" (35). Gossip Girl does a good job of providing entertainment. The story is fast-paced and revolves around the interaction between characters and the social events they attend. Teens may find it fun to fantasize about living among the elite in New York City and attending fabulous parties, but I think the main reason they find these books appealing is that they deal with themes of friendship, loyalty, and jealousy. These themes resonate with teens because they are navigating the social waters of middle school and high school and may find their friendships changing over the years (as Blair and Serena's friendship changes).

Gossip Girl appeals to reluctant and resistant readers. Crawford recommends that we "avoid stigmatizing value judgments about reading materials" and that we "try to change the negative experience that occurs when resistant readers encounter books." This means that we have to give them "books that many librarians, teachers, and children's literature experts snub" (Crawford).

Like other students, I was not thrilled by the characters' use of drugs, their underage drinking, or their disordered eating habits. Obviously the characters are not great role models, and the books in this series are often challenged or banned because of sexual innuendo or drug use. However, I think librarians need to make these books available for teens and let the parents decide whether or not their children can read them. Parents should be discussing these sensitive issues with their teenagers, but they don't always get involved with what their kids are reading. Librarians can make nonfiction books on these sensitive topics (drugs, sex, eating disorders) available for teens if they want to learn more if they seek it out.

Gallo, D. R. (January 2001). How classics create an aliterate society. 
The English Journal, 90 (3), 33-39.

Crawford, P.C. (January/February 2008). Why 
Gossip Girl matters. The Horn Book Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.hbook.com/magazine/articles/2008/jan08_crawford.asp

Rating: 2/5


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