A lot of my academic work has focused on young adult literature, and it’s not uncommon for me to get some backlash from the academic community. They wonder why I would waste my time on something as fluffy as YA lit when I could be focusing on more important things (like completing corpus-based studies examining syntactic shifts in written American English from the past two hundred years… Exhilarating).
The answer is simple. I’m passionate about youth literature, and not just because I love it (I love a lot of adult books, but I don’t focus my energy there). It’s really important to me that we write and publish engaging books that kids and teens want to read because the advantages of reading for pleasure are astounding. Here are just a handful of advantages that my research has looked at:
- Kids who read find reassurance in characters who have similar struggles.
- Reading improves analytical skills.
- Kids who read are better readers (go figure).
- People who read are more likely to engage in volunteer work.
- People who read as kids are more likely to read as adults.
- Reading improves writing skills.
- Books can provide an escape and allow readers to de-stress.
- Avid readers are more likely to engage in cultural events like going to museums or attending concerts.
- Books introduce kids to a variety of factoids. They increase cultural capital.
- Reading often provides cautionary tales or give perspective on issues.
- Avid readers are more likely to vote.
- Reading allows people to make empathetic connections and increases sensitivity.
- Kids who read have stronger vocabularies.
- Employers say they need more employees with the reading and writing skills that can be obtained from pleasure reading.
- Avid readers are more likely to have financially rewarding jobs. Those who don’t read at all are much more likely to be jobless.
As you can see, reading is tremendously important (and that’s just scratching the surface). And the best way to encourage reading is to keep producing books that people WANT to read. So despite the naysayers, I’m incredibly grateful to get to work in this industry and to do the research I do. I really am lucky to be working with such talented writers, illustrators, editors, agents, ect. The work you guys do is important.
Because books. That’s why.