A column about the Gossip Girls series in the recent issue of American Libraries puzzled me. We are all very familiar with the uproar about these books raised by those outside of the YA field. They criticize these series and want to restrict their reading. We need to offer our kids better literature is the argument most often advanced.
This column left me wondering why we have the audacity to suggest that kids are not able, nor should they be permitted, to select their own recreational reading materials. That would be akin to me walking up to some adult at a bookstore or library and tell them to put back their bestseller in lieu of better literature.
Teens select Gossip Girl on their own in the same way I selected Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames, and Sue Barton along with TRUE CONFESSIONS and other popular magazines back in my teens. That did not prevent me from becoming an English teacher and appreciating the work of the classics. I did hope to be more of a detective or a nurse, but…
A few years ago, there was a doctoral dissertation entitled, So They’re Reading Nancy Drew, So What? In the study, the researcher discovered that those of us who read serial fiction as kids grew up to be readers. I think we need to take the same approach to contemporary series.
Another note: the column mentioned the work of Pam Spencer Holley, former YALSA president, in helping to develop lists that build with teens’ interest in the GG books. Pam has done a lot to highlight teens and reading. However, if I did not know of her efforts, the article would not have informed me of her work.
Given that the list of the most challenged books of 2006 included this series (and the list was in the same issue), I would think that we need to ask why this series is striking a chord with teens. We can certainly guide them to other books, but we need to acknowledge that teens have a right to books of their own choosing, especially for recreational reading.
Finally, YALSA must be doing something right as the teen segment of the population is purchasing books and reading them now more than ever before.
Posted by Teri Lesesne