That's why booksellers, librarians, teachers, and other bookish folks are so important - we speak for the books.* We take them off of the shelves, where they are closed up and quiet, and we give them a voice (talking about them) and a new home (in the hands of the readers). When we open books, we allow ourselves and others to travel to new worlds and learn new things - maybe even something about ourselves in the process!
* We also sing for them. Earlier this month, someone trilled, "We pick the books that the whole world reeeeads..."
Whether you are a bookseller, a librarian, or a teacher, you have a great opportunity to be a positive influence on young readers.
When kids and teenagers asks you for recommendations, personalize the experience for each one of them. Match the book to the reader.
Advanced reader? Challenge them. A new author, a new book, a known author, a classic book, an unknown author, a genre they have yet to tackle.
Reluctant reader? Ask for favorite movies, TV shows, and hobbies. Give them books that match their interests.
When you recommend books, don't spoil the endings. If they want to know, trust me, they'll find out. I had a fabulous customer who loved romances, so she would often be seen grabbing a book off of the shelves, reading the summary on the back cover or front flap, then reading the last few pages to see if the characters got a happy ending.
Don't talk down to kids, and don't over-sell a book. Kids, for the most part, know the truth when they hear it - or perhaps I should say they know when people are lying! They can also be more blunt about what they like and what they don't like than adults are. Kids will tell it like it is.
Sarah Miller, Liz B. and I had a great conversation about this very topic recently, and Sarah urged me to post what I said. Kids are great at self-censoring. Many kids are "truer" to themselves than adults. It's not about being improper or impolite or impulsive, but HONEST. If they don't like something, they'll say it. If they are squeamish or uncomfortable with something on TV or in a movie, they'll close their eyes or look away or get up and walk away. If they don't like something in a book, they can skip a page, skip that part, skip ahead, or close the book, maybe returning to read it a day, a month, a year later, ten years later, maybe never finishing it. Adults have all of the same abilities. They just don't act on them as often.
As I've said before, discerning readers want to read (and will appreciate) a good book, period. Talk to kids and teens on the same level as and with the same respect you'd give adults. Really listen to what they say.
Related Articles: Just Say No to Gender Bias, Books for the Ages, or, Why I Don't Use the Term MG, I Think YA is Great!