Kate Spratt, Buncombe County Public Libraries youth services specialist for the Preschool Outreach Program, discusses trends in children’s literature and ways parents can make reading fun.
What trends in children’s literature have you observed over the past several years?
I have noticed that world building has been increasingly popular. It’s fascinating to see genres blend together to create compelling stories with dynamic heroes. This is true for both middle-grade chapter books and YA fiction. For example, the Dragons in a Bag series by Zetta Elliott combines magical elements with an epic quest centered around three young people transporting actual dragons — what’s not to love about this plot?!
Another thing that I’m excited about is the increasing representation of Black and Indigenous youths of color and LGBTQIA+ youth in children’s literature. Books can be “mirrors” or “windows” for children. It’s important that youths see themselves reflected in the books that they read and also see stories outside of their immediate community.
How can parents improve the way they read to kids?
Great question! As a youth services librarian, I plan and present story times for children and their parents or caregivers. I always encourage the caregivers to really get into the stories, sing songs out loud, be silly and make reading with their children fun. Children love to see adults excited about reading! Asking children questions while reading and encouraging them to make predictions of the outcome of the book is a great way to get them involved. It’s also helpful for parents and caregivers to utilize early literacy resources in the community. Buncombe County Public Libraries is, of course, an excellent local resource, as are Buncombe Partnership for Children and Read to Succeed Asheville/Buncombe.
What children’s book about time travel deserves more attention?
Midsummer’s Mayhem is a magical middle-grade book by Rajani LaRocca about stepping into another time and place. Eleven-year-old protagonist Mimi Mackson is an aspiring chef who wants to make her family proud. When she meets a new friend and discovers a mystical forest behind her Massachusetts home, Mimi is able to incorporate food from other realms into her culinary creations — much to the delight of her family. But what effects are these magically sourced ingredients having on those who partake? This book is an innovative and enjoyable retelling of Shakespeare‘s A Midsummer Night’s Dream that is relatable to current audiences. Rajani LaRocca is an awesome award-winning author, and I highly recommend any of her books.