Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Young Adult Literature

ONE timeless and overriding QUESTION
applies to all Young Adult Literature  (YAL)
and adolescent readers ages 12 - 18 . . .

Who Am I?

Who am I as a human being?

Who am I in relationships? With friends, with family?

Who am I as a member of society?

Who am I as a citizen of this planet? As a being in the Universe?

The Red-Lettered, 7 Characteristics of the 
Best Modern Literature for Young Adults

Characteristic 1: Young authors write from the viewpoint of young people.

Characteristic 2: “Please, Mother, I want the credit!”

Characteristic 3: YAL is fast-paced

Characteristic 4: YAL includes a variety of genres and subjects

Characteristic 5: YAL includes stories and characters from many different ethnic and cultural groups

Characteristic 6: Young adult books are basically optimistic, with characters making worthy accomplishments

Characteristic 7: Successful young adult novels deal with emotions that are important to young adults

In the spirit of the Bill of Rights, Daniel Pennac penned The Reader's Bill of Rights in his 1996 book, Better Than Life.

Daniel Pennac's

Reader's Bill of Rights

Readers have:
  • The right to not read.
  • The right to skip pages.
  • The right not to finish.
  • The right to reread.
  • The right to read anything.
  • The right to escapism.
  • The right to read anywhere.
  • The right to browse.
  • The right to read out loud.
  • The right not to defend your tastes
    Literary Merit

Literature represents a vicarious route to experiencing the world. Adolescence is a time of questioning, experimenting, testing new boundaries. Books offer a safer route to grappling with life experiences. It is a developmental necessity for adolescents to have exposure to the harsher emotional and situational realities presented through literature as a preparation for successful functioning as an adult.

Literature must be assessed against the framework of developmental hallmarks for adolescence.

I. Unifying elements include:
  • Authenticity in characters, narrative, dialogue, setting
  • Compelling themes and plots -- ones with relevance and resonance for the reader
  • Respect for the reader

II. Core concepts include:
  • Identity Development--the great "Who Am I?" quest
  • Loss of Innocence    
  • Testing boundaries and authority
  • Independence and responsibility
  • Greater emphasis on action and personal experience
  • Developing a "moral compass"

III. Other markers of literary strength to consider in evaluating literature: 

plot, characters, narrative, setting, theme, style, format.

This work is truly outstanding for the adolescent reader, rises to the level of memorable and extraordinary, and will stand the test of time.

  • literary quality

  • resonance with the developmental needs and concerns of the adolescent

  • relevance to the teen experience

  • significance -- a contribution to the literature that breaks ground in some important way

  • fulfillment of genre expectations 


    Friday, May 13, 2011

    Defining and Qualifying YAL

    Defining and Qualifying YAL of Merit

    A work of young adult literature isn’t special because of what it’s about -- it’s special because of how it’s about what it’s about. More than just a great story, literature is the great telling of a story. 

    Form and function are linked, and this marriage of art and craft transports the young reader to some new understanding – or new question. The energy released by the writer in devising the perfect way to convey his or her story, dictates style and is transferred to the reader as the story’s deeper meaning. 

    This connection between art/craft, meaning/style, writer/reader -- activates metacognition. It's not unlike the double delight in witnessing a stage magician’s perfectly performed illusion -- we both marvel at its magic and wonder how the trick is done. 

    The hallmark of a great piece of young adult literature then, is its metacognitive effect on the young adults who read it. Is it a mirror that prompts the shock of recognition? Or a window providing a new way of seeing what we see? 

    Does it provoke thought?

    Based on the generally used criteria of literary organizations and professional journals, the qualities I would look for in assessing literary merit in young adult books can be framed in four areas.

    To qualify as a exhibiting the highest literary merit, a work of YAL must be:

    • Convey something relevant to the lives of young adults
    • authentic, socially conscious and culturally competent

    • Examine a new question or an enduring truth
    • Activate metacognition

    • Innovative, unique, or distinct in some way
    • Well-crafted, aesthetically pleasing, fully realized work of art

    • Stir the senses and arouse the spirit
    • Emotionally convincing and morally satisfying

    Thought Provocation

    Wednesday, May 11, 2011

    Energy, Exploration, Identity

    Developmental Markers

    Adolescence (defined here as ages 12 - 18) is a time of exploration and boundary testing -- including boundaries of authority and appropriate behavior -- and represents, in essence, the fundamental quest of human existence: the search for identity.

    • It's a time of high idealism. There is a quest for the heroic (often reflected in the literature, especially science fiction and fantasy).
    • The concept of a quest becomes a prominent theme. Adolescence is basically a quest for identity defining who one is as an individual, as well as within the context of society. It is necessary preparation for (in a sense, trying on) the adult role that young person is growing into.
    • It is a time of strong ego and heightened self-consciousness and self-centeredness; there is extreme sensitivity to criticism.
    • Exponential growth, not only in the body, but particularly in the brain (at a rate almost unparalleled in a lifespan; other than infancy, it is primarily in adolescence that a brain "prunes" its patterns of behaviors, goals, and activities)
    • Senses are also heightened; teens have high visual and audio acuity.
    • Increased physicality means explosive energy and a greater consciousness of the body and, as they progress in age, sexuality.
    • Creative energy abounds.
    • Hormonal changes cause increased tension, clumsiness and irritability, dramatic emotional leaps, and physiological changes that generate awareness of sexuality. Hormone surges make them emotional tinderboxes. An immature cortex gives them shaky judgment. Melatonin throws their sleep schedules out of whack
    • There is a move towards greater introspection as they age.
    • There is no more important stage of life to offer both opportunities for independent responsibilities and acknowledgements for their efforts.
    • Social interactions take high priority. Peers become paramount.
    • They move in packs and they make a lot of noise--that's NATURAL! Those who can't socialize at all are the ones to notice and offer meaningful mentorship.
    Do not ever call them children! That's the last thing they see themselves as.

    Parents and positive adults have a much heavier influence on teens than might initially appear; teens want more time, support, and direction from them.

     Early Adolescence Research

    Early adolescence is a distinct period of human growth and development situated between childhood and adolescence. During this stage, young adolescents (10- to 15-year-olds) experience rapid and significant developmental change.

    As an urban educator, I understand the developmental characteristics of young adolescents to include the physical, intellectual, moral/ethical, emotional/psychological and social domains. These characteristics are interrelated and overlap. Although these basic categories are often used in educational research to portray youth ages 10 to 15, I remain mindful of the danger in generalities and oversimplification. Every learner is unique.

    Early adolescence gained acceptance as a distinct developmental period during the 20th century. G. Stanley Hall (1904), American psychologist and father of the child study movement, identified "preadolescence" as a unique growth stage. Donald Eichhorn (1966), considered a founding father of the middle school movement, called upon educators to consider these characteristics when planning curriculum, instruction, and assessment, and when structuring the environment of the middle school.

    Physical Developmental Characteristics
    • During early adolescence, the body undergoes more development than at any other time, “except the first two years of life.”
    • Growth is accelerated and uneven. Since bones are growing faster than muscles, young adolescents may experience coordination issues. Actual growing pains result when muscles and tendons do not adequately protect bones. Fluctuations in basal metabolism cause these learners to experience periods of restlessness and lassitude. Young adolescents tend to "have ravenous appetites and peculiar tastes" and have a propensity for improper nutrition.
    •  A cascade of hormones signals the development of primary and secondary gender characteristics. Girls tend to mature one to two years earlier than boys.
    •  Increased production of adrenal hormones affecting skeletal growth, hair and skin make highly visible changes at disparate rates of maturity and cause many young adolescents to feel uncomfortable about differences in physical development.
    •   They are often physically vulnerable due to poor physical fitness, poor health habits, and high-risk behaviors.
    • There are significant changes within the brain during young adolescence. For example, researchers observe that the prefrontal cortex -- the area of the brain that handles executive functions including planning, reasoning, anticipating consequences, sustaining attention, and making decisions -- is not fully developed in young adolescents.

    Practical Implications

    As an urban middle school educator I can: (1) mitigate young adolescents' concerns about physical development by explaining that these changes are natural and common; (2) present accurate information, respond to questions, and encourage young adolescents to consult credible resources; (3) ensure that my school provides health and science curricula that clarify physical changes; (4) advocate for other educational programs that encourage sound nutrition, sufficient exercise, and healthy lifestyles.

    Intellectual and Moral/Ethical Developmental Characteristics

    • During early adolescence, youth exhibit a wide range of intellectual development including metacognition and independent thought.
    • They transition from a self-centered perspective to having consideration for the rights and feelings of others.
    • Their increased capacity for analytical thought, reflection, and introspection exemplifies the connection between young adolescents' moral and intellectual development.
    • Often keenly aware of flaws in others, they may be reticent to acknowledge their own. They pose broad, unanswerable questions about life and refuse to accept trivial responses from adults.
    • Young adolescents tend to be highly curious, display a broad array of interests and are eager to learn about useful topics. These learners are most interested in real-life experiences and authentic learning opportunities.
    • They will favor active over passive learning experiences, and prefer interactions with peers during educational activities.

    Practical Implications

    As an urban middle school educator addressing the wide diversity of development, I can: (1) provide a variety of educational approaches and materials; (2) appreciate how this age group thinks, planning lessons around real-world concepts and supplying authentic educational activities; (3) design experiences for learners to contemplate moral/ethical dilemmas and consider possible responses, so they may develop values, resolve problems, and set their own standards of behavior; (4) provide forums for students to explore the reasons for school, home, and societal rules; (5) be a role model -- helping learners connect intellectual and moral reasoning.

    Emotional and Social Developmental Characteristics

    • Emotional and psychological development at this stage is characterized by the quest for independence and identity formation.
    • Young adolescents seek their own sense of individuality and seek adult acceptance – while simultaneously striving to maintain peer approval. They have a strong need to belong to a group -- with peer approval becoming more important as adult approval decreases in importance.
    • Rebellious but dependent, they may emulate admired peers, experimenting with slang and “alternative behaviors,” yet the family remains a critical factor in decision-making.
    •     Since social maturity often lags behind physical and intellectual development, young adolescents may overreact to situations, ridicule others, and feel embarrassment.
    • Often self-conscious and prone to lack self-esteem, these learners are highly sensitive to criticism. They are also socially vulnerable due to influences of media and negative interactions with adults.
    • Young adolescents are apt to believe that their experiences, feelings, and problems are unique.
    • This period is intense and unpredictable. Learners have a tendency to be moody, restless, and may exhibit erratic and inconsistent behavior.

    Practical Implications

    As an urban middle school educator I can: (1) support young adolescents' quest for identity formation through curricular experiences, instructional approaches, organization structures, and through opportunities for exploration; (2) recognize the importance of friendships and create opportunities for learners to form positive and healthy relationships with peers; (3) promote an atmosphere of friendliness, concern, and group cohesiveness; (4) provide educational experiences such as role-playing, drama, and reading that permit learners to understand that their problems are not unique; (5) provide experiences that promote the exploration of personal freedom and independence within a safe space; (6) create environments that are free from harsh criticism, humiliation, and sarcasm.

    Adolescent Developmental Markers (ADM)

    • Quest for Identity

    • High idealism

    • Self-centeredness; Self-consciousness; Sensitivity to criticism

    • Desires independence while also needing support and guidance

    • Developing a "moral compass"

    • Testing boundaries of authority

    • Highly charged emotionalism and intensity

    • Peers become paramount; move in packs

    • Joy and heartbreak of evolving love and friendships

    • High visual and audio acuity

    Developmental Themes of Adolescence (DTA)

    • Highly charged emotionalism and intensity

    • Physical awkwardness

    • Sense of isolation and/or being an "outcast"

    • Exhilaration of new freedoms and independence

    • Testing boundaries

    • Joy and heartbreak of evolving love and friendships

    • Acute awareness of the social world and your place within it

    • Pain and struggle and a developing resilience

    • Raw vulnerability in facing the world and its relationship in a very different way

    Core Concepts of Adolescence (CCA)

    • Identity Development

    • Loss of Innocence

    • Testing boundaries and authority

    • Independence and responsibility

    • Greater emphasis on action and personal experience

    • Moral development

    Early adolescence (ages 11-14)
    Middle Adolescence (ages 15 &16)
    Late adolescence  (17 & 18)

    Adolescence Development Links

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    The Conversation Electric

    The Conversation Electric
    A Virtual Investigation of Adolescent Literature e-Mailing Lists

    Contained in this report are observations made while attempting to develop a basic knowledge of young adult literature (YAL) electronic mailing lists through an examination of two specific organizations: the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) and Adolescent Books (AdBooks) e-mail lists. This rewarding investigation found that online discussion groups offer a rich resource for networking, information sharing and research. Inquiry findings and conclusions are here detailed in three sections: an overview of the two groups and the themes and core topics discussed, a summary of pertinent insights and perspectives presented, and new awarenesses gained from the overall experience of the investigation.

    Discussion Topics

    Mailing lists are a valuable YAL resource because of the relevancy of themes and core topics discussed as exemplified by the YALSA and AdBooks organizations. YALSA is self-described as an “open list for subscribers to discuss specific books and works” nominated for the YALSA booklists, “as well as other issues concerning young adult reading and young adult literature.” Examined were the approximately 280 YALSA postings from May 16 to May 30 and a sampling of archived messages dating back to January of 2000.

    Adolescent Books List, created in 1998, is an online society that informally dialogues about young adult literature. A “welcome message” from AdBooks’ moderators mentions that subscribers select at least one book a month for debate “and sponsor an annual book award, the JHunt.” Examination of AdBooks included the nearly 100 messages posted between May 16 and May 30, as well as 300 randomly chosen messages from ten years of AdBooks archives.

    YALSA discussion is dominated by issues mainly of interest to librarians, educators or other professionals concerned with connecting teens and books. Beyond title suggestions and ideas for themed teen booklists, there is currently fairly rigorous debate about controversial new titles, effective teen reading events, equitable library policies, the changing role of librarians, and censorship of YAL due to perceived age inappropriateness. The YALSA archives reveal user messages about favorite books and authors, searches for a certain title or a certain genre, news about various book awards, and speculation on casting choices for YAL-inspired films.

    AdBooks is a less active e-mail list than YALSA, but its subscribers are no less dedicated to thoughtful discussion of YAL and matters related to teen reading. AdBooks seems to presently be a forum for folks to share book reviews and personal opinions about YAL issues. Conversation centers on prospective winners of AdBooks’ JHunt Award and titles nominated for other awards such as the Newbery and Caldecott prizes. Based on a perusal of the archives, AdBooks discussion has also involved requests for publisher information, news surrounding popular writers, updates about book events, and thoughts on reluctant readers and similar student reading issues.

    People and Perspectives

    Discussion groups like YALSA and AdBooks can be extremely useful to teachers, parents, students and others concerned with young adult literature as evidenced by the wealth of pertinent insights and informed perspectives presented in the on-going conversations.

    YALSA’s mail list, with its distinguished and dedicated contributors, is a virtual university symposium on YAL and related matters. One archived message begins -- "a colleague and I are doing some research on YA fiction that includes a character on the autism spectrum." The writer received dozens of suggestions and responses that spun off from the main topic of autism spectrum disorders. Over the years, debate has produced insightful commentary on a wide variety of subjects such as teen pregnancy, crime, politics, and powerful book cover art.

    YALSA List also serves as a kind of central bulletin board where people can post literary happenings, teen reading events and professional development opportunities. "Get the inside scoop on the hottest titles for fall, from the editors of Penguin Young Readers Group," announces one person, noting that "editors will be discussing their favorite books at the Sheraton New Orleans." A subscriber from Michigan's Chelsea District Library put out word of a free weekend of workshops revolving around "kids reading comics," "improv cartooning," and "graphic novel authors."

    Along with the same sorts of event notices found at YALSA, AdBooks receives many posts pertaining to news articles and blogs. In a message titled "Status & Bullying," a subscriber links to "an interesting piece in the NYTimes which has relevance for high school life as portrayed in YA lit." Trends in teen books and publishing are frequently noted. "I read recently" says a group member, "that some publishers are thinking of a new category for 18-21." 

    At times, along with "read-alikes" and booklist requests, subtler issues arise. For instance, a message detailing a specific title elicited eye-opening opinions about the popularity of the often commercially successful but critically overlooked works packaged in book series. "I'm proposing the idea of having a series award list of some sort," says a subscriber, "because very often series titles do not make it as major award winners."

    While YALSA's forum is mostly filled with professional opinions, AdBooks' messages tend to offer the equally important perspective of the amateur book-lover. Asked where to go for a listing of the "quintessential books" that "really stand out" in YAL, most responders at AdBooks seemed to agree that the Printz award listing was the place to start. AdBooks archives display many messages under the heading "Recent Reading." These posts usually contain good, quick, honest reviews. Topics of debate that illicit the most intense commentary center on YAL authors and awards.

    The regular contributors in both groups speak with authority and bring a depth of knowledge and personal experience to the digital dialogues. The consistently respectful tone and tenor of debate inspires confidence in the validity of the participants’ determinations and opinions. Rarely do members wildly disagree, and there are none of the heated “flame wars” typical of so many online chat rooms and message boards. Certainly contributing to the agreeable atmosphere of these two particular groups is that the perspectives offered do not represent an especially wide range of diversity. Also, with the noted exception of fairly recent posts on Native American books and bilingual books, issues specific to cultural diversity have not been among the most popular discussion items. However, through the YALSA and AdBooks archives, I was easily able to locate the listserv addresses of several online organizations dedicated to diverse youth literature, multicultural books and urban learners.

    Discoveries and Determinations

    Participation in electronic mailing lists is found to be a worthwhile investment of time and energy based on several new awarenesses gained from this investigation. These awarenesses include discoveries about the opportunities, possibilities and power presented by membership in associations like YALSA and AdBooks.

    Mailing lists provide an opportunity for direct communication with a wide variety of knowledgeable people. Based on my observations, the very responsive subscribers at YALSA are as polite and encouraging as they are smart. Thinking back on difficult research assignments and projects of the past, having access to a group of such distinguished and thoughtful people will be extremely beneficial to future professional endeavors.

    Among the many potential uses for mailing lists, perhaps most valuable is that they can serve as a YAL newspaper. The continuing inflow of information provides a method for keeping abreast of new developments, trends and topics of controversy in teen reading. Emails deliver daily updates about authors, illustrators, entertainers and other newsworthy people connected to youth culture.

    Through use of a dedicated email address, periodic sorting and a systematic filing process, the mail from YAL lists can become a powerful engine that generates a private digital database. By employing the file folder options and search features available from Google, Yahoo and most other email hosts, the list information becomes a personal archive that is searchable by book title, author, member name, date or specific combination of keywords.

    Joining the Conversation Electric

    Based on these new awarenesses – as well as the examination of topics and perspectives presented in the YALSA and AdBooks discussions – I have assessed electronic mailing lists to be an extremely powerful and empowering tool. Having found these YAL organizations to be a rich resource, useful for networking, information sharing and research, I fully intend to incorporate electronic mailing lists into future professional and personal projects.

    Multicultural YAL e-Mailing Lists

    CCBC-Net -- Cooperative Children’s Book Center
    “Members explore a wide range of topics in contemporary literature for youth, including multicultural literature, translated books, outstanding, and award-winning books, equity themes and topics, the book arts and book publishing, and more.”

    IB-PALMS -- International Baccalaureate Pan Asian Library and Media Specialists
    "Supporting Librarians and Media Specialists in schools offering any of the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) programs"

    MCP -- Multicultural Pavilion
    The purpose of MCP is “to facilitate dialogue and the exchange of resources among educators, students, and activists dedicated to multicultural education, educational equity, and social justice.”

    NAME-MCE -- National Association for Multicultural Education
    NAMEprovides a forum to discuss multicultural education, share resources, post job openings, announce conferences or other events, and ask questions of educators and activists around the world.”

    SILC-Asia -- International School Librarians in the Asian-Pacific Rim region
    “The purpose of SILC-Asia is to provide cost-effective services and information to support interlibrary cooperative activities which will strengthen resource sharing and improve the effectiveness of member libraries.”

    YA-URBAN / YALSA – “Serving YA’s in Large Urban Populations.”

    Monday, May 9, 2011

    Culturally Relevant Framework

    Toward a Culturally Relevant Developmental
    Framework for Urban Young Adults of Color


    Control Question: How might adolescent developmental and literacy concepts translate into a creative website format that validates the perspectives, supports the priorities, and promotes the personal passions of urban young adults of color?

    Despite using the structure and process of inventing a website targeted to teens, this research project is principally intended to increase understanding of diverse urban youth. Project design includes a secondary emphasis of inquiry connected to culture.  Focus Question: Do cultural background and ethnic identity have the effect of highlighting or intensifying particular markers of adolescent development? 

    Additionally, research materials were manipulated in order to compare established theories about adolescence with the actual experiences of a young African American male. While the creation of a working website is beyond the scope of this project, the fourth research component has a practical objective. Themes and patterns in the findings will be analyzed and organized into the core concepts and guiding principles of a culturally relevant framework, specific to urban adolescents of color. 

    This report has been ordered into three main sections: overview of approach, procedures and teen research partner; data and analysis; project findings and consequent framework.


    Along with the stresses associated with adolescence, African American youth in urban communities must cope with the challenges and demands of economic and social disadvantage. Young Black males, in particular, face difficult challenges as recorded in numerous studies and reports on the African American educational achievement gap and social opportunity gap. Extensive literature on this subject has established that cultural influences such as oppression, discrimination, racial prejudice and stereotyping can negatively impact a Black adolescent’s concept of self and complicate his ability to envision a positive role in society.

    Procedures: Based on the broadly accepted research that has defined markers characterizing adolescent development, an initial series of prompts and probative questions were created. Developmental research was distilled and assembled into three charts. Although these charts contain similar types of information, they were treated as separate checklists to guide the collection of data and focus interpretation of results. The three charts – fully itemized in the Addendum to this document – catalogue Adolescent Developmental Markers (ADM), Developmental Themes of Adolescence (DTA), and Core Concepts of Adolescence (CCA). Information was collected through two, mid-May 2011 telephone interviews, and two follow-up discussions approximately three weeks later in June with a teen study participant. The project partner was evaluated to assess personal attitudes and self-concept, outlook on social issues concerning equity and opportunity, and observations about the developmental patterns of his peers. Based on his cultural background, it was predicted that the respondent’s attitudes and experiences would most strongly correlate with the particular hallmarks of adolescence that involve identity formation (self-esteem), a sense of isolation, and feelings of social vulnerability.

    Study Participant: The project teen partner, referred to in this report as Ritchie, is a 16-year-old African American male public high school student preparing to enter his senior year. Ritchie feels supported at home. He enjoys several close friendships, mostly with young men. Ritchie also feels supported at school by teachers and other adults. He is decidedly optimistic. While experiencing some personal problems and pressures at this time in his life, he is generally quite hopeful about his future. Ritchie is not certain of his career plans, but is very interested in music production and audio engineering. Asked if he believed society would fairly give him, as a young Black man, the same opportunity to be successful as anybody else, Ritchie responded in the affirmative. However, he felt he might have to work harder than others, depending on the area of employment. Asked if he believed his efforts and hard work toward becoming successful would be recognized and rewarded by society, Ritchie responded, “Of course!”

    Data and Analysis

    Target Audience

    Research Data: Diverse Urban Teen Perspectives
    • Results of ADM rating scale: Ritchie verified his personal experience with each of the developmental issues – to some degree. Of the ten markers reviewed, Ritchie most strongly related to the following four: (1) quest for identity; (2) high idealism; (3) self-consciousness and sensitivity to criticism; and (4) desires independence while also needing support and guidance. Ritchie least identified with the ADM – “peers becoming paramount.”
    • Results of DTA rating scale: Respondent has personally experienced some degree of most themes. Of the nine, Ritchie most identified with the following: (1) highly charged emotionalism and intensity; (2) a sense of isolation and/or being an outcast; (3) acute awareness of the social world and your place within it; and (4) a raw vulnerability in facing the world and its relationship in a very different way.
    • Partner’s view of himself and other African American teens: Ritchie has a great deal of creative energy. He was eager to give opinions and wanted to more fully participate in the actual design elements. He gladly offered to contribute his computer skills in music and photography. Ritchie’s favorite possession is his computer. He reports that the favorite activities of urban youth are music, sports, shopping, dating, hanging with friends, and partying. Ritchie seemed hesitant to speak freely about drug and alcohol use. Ritchie became animated and direct when requested to list the community and social issues of chief concern to himself and African American youth. He quickly specified the following items: (1) government corruption; (2) how Black teens feel treated -- disrespected -- in school; (3) trouble with racism and prejudice; and (4) discrimination in the police department and judicial system. No, Ritchie has never personally had interaction with police. Yes, he has experienced discrimination – and believes most young people of color have experienced prejudice and discrimination.
    • Partner’s literary awarenesses and insights: Ritchie spoke quite eloquently about literature, expressing the view that books and stories provide “metaphors to think about life.” Teens of all cultural backgrounds, according to Ritchie, are more likely to read and enjoy items that are short. He is also certain that the ability of teens to respond and share opinions about what they read is vital to the success of a site aimed at young people. For Black youth in particular, Ritchie sees music as a far more popular and important vehicle of expression than literature. Other than a gaming magazine, he rarely reads for pleasure, and seldom discusses books with friends. Teens would probably prefer lighter books -- comedies or “action books.”  Ritchie believes Black teenagers prefer books by Black writers. Asked for his favorite author, Ritchie seemed quite proud to give the name, Walter Dean Myers.

    Research Analysis: Observations of Developmental Patterns in Partner

    Ritchie was reluctant to group all Black teens together. Several times, he emphasized that individual differences are important. Physically, Ritchie feels healthy, but he is always extremely tired.  He is so tired at times that he falls asleep in class – but Ritchie insists he gets plenty of regular sleep. Ritchie is struggling in school. He relates his education difficulties with his periodic feelings of depression. He agreed to the characterization “moody” and the idea of “highs and lows,” but could not be specific about his days of depression. Ritchie becomes pensive. He says he doesn’t necessarily feel bad, he just “doesn’t feel right.”  I note that moments later the 16-year-old’s introspective mood has flipped and he is excitedly giving details about his triumphs as group leader on a multi-player gaming site.

    What do we hope to achieve? Based on the data connected to urban teen perspectives, the guiding vision of the website is determined to be: to create a sense of community, build self-esteem, and provide young adults of color a forum for awareness and discussion of important issues.

    Design Requirements
    Research Data: Diverse Urban Teen Priorities
    • Format ideas: Respondent feels teens would prefer an ongoing, evolving website that offered a wide variety of topics and features – as opposed to a periodically published e-zine that is limited in scope. Teens of color are more likely to visit a website that is dedicated to their social concerns and is directed specifically to them. Web content generated by teens and web interactivity are thought to be the two most important elements of a successful venture.
    • Design approach: Ritchie offered surprisingly strong opinions on approach, insisting the website should be limited to no more than two or three basic colors, and that the site not be overly busy or visually complicated. He feels teens would be put off by distracting or confusing visual elements. A simple design is seen as preferable, due to the amount of visual information teens are “bombarded with day and night by the media.” The ideal look would be simple but sophisticated, with the main visual element being photos of teens and celebrities. Advertisements should be kept to a minimum, and posted at the bottom of the page. Ritchie suggests it would be a good idea to have a website gift shop, selling a limited variety of merchandise.
    • Marketing strategy and promotional tactics: Web links and “word of mouth” -- as compared to television, radio or magazine advertising – would be the best bets for marketing. Ritchie is not familiar with any website created by or for Black youth and feels it would be quite easy to attract visitors to such a site. The most effective promotional strategy? Offering free “downloading” of new music. Citing the popularity of gaming – Ritchie believes the creation of a new online, multi-player game set in an urban environment would be a winning proposition for attracting and maintaining interest in the website.

    Research Analysis: Observations and Translation to Design
    The site should be clearly aimed at young adults of color, and should stress content authored by African Americans and other minorities. I note that -- a writer whose work touches the hearts and minds of urban youth can be a powerful role model. Articles by and about successful authors from diverse backgrounds should be a regular website feature. Information and ideas are interesting to teenagers when coming from other teenagers or “old people who are still kind of young in their 20s.” Content created by site members and other young people should dominate the pages. Visually, the site must be clean and uncluttered.

    What type of site do young people most need? Ritchie expressed that, while maturity levels vary, adolescents belong in two categories: 12 - 15 and 16 - 18. The older group would definitely prefer the title, “young adults.” In order to create a sense of trust and community, the site will have an option for teens to become members. Members would have their own screen name, home page and message box or email – similar to MySpace and other social networking sites.

    Site Content
    Research Data: Diverse Urban Teen Passions
    • Results of CCA rating scale: The respondent verified some degree of experience with all six core concepts but most strongly related to two items: (1) identity Development; and (2) independence and responsibility.
    • Content strategy and relevancy to diverse urban teens: The proposed platform will be a combination pop culture and social networking site. It will be a multi-focus, multi-purpose webpage with a host of features. Updated content and visitor feedback will induce teens to return to the site. The strategy is to provide a forum where urban youth can build confidence through self-expression. By sharing opinions, stories, music and art, site members can take comfort in the fact that they are not alone in their thoughts and feelings. Based on Ritchie’s mission statement suggestion of “a place for people to express themselves” the website mission is: to build self-esteem and social awareness among young adults of color through shared information, ideas and experiences.
    • Organization and structure: The site will have a newsmagazine layout with a daily headline piece, news articles of interest to urban teens, and regularly updated feature sections. There will be a “members only” area with profile pages, messaging and other social networking components. Issues of emphasis are respect, rules of behavior, awareness of cultural pride and intra-cultural diversity. Issues that should definitely not be emphasized are school work and education. The intended audience is urban young adults of color, approximately 16 – 18 years of age.
    Research Analysis: Translation to Design

    Domain Name: Of the twelve presented website names, Ritchie’s top choice: I.D. Magazine -- Intentional Diversity. Top three runner-ups: (2) Urban Word; (3) Today in Color Magazine; (4) Curb -- Contemporary Urban Bounce.

    Design mock-ups: Ritchie preferred: (1) Our Voices Break Open --; (2) Urban Word --;  (3) Reach Up -; (4) Urban Contemporary --

    Teen contribution and authorship: Member input and content authorship is a pivotal element of the platform and would be central to the final design. Exactly how content would be gathered is not clear, but the site would encourage members to submit material through promotions and prizes. An editorial board of teens may be a solution.

    Editorial departments will include: On Point: monthly column from a special guest editor; Reach Up: wellness; Sound Advice: music; Urban Word: literature and reviews; Ur Style: fashion, grooming; Spot Light: profiling artists, authors, academics and athletes; Change: poetry, art, social justice; Black Friday: lifestyle; Hang Time: sports; Thinking in Color: culture; Brother; Sister; Link Crazy: bookmarks; Aspire: monthly teen showcase; Suggestion Box.

    Findings and Framework

    Observations of Developmental Patterns in Partner: The adolescent developmental characteristics most pronounced in interaction with the study participant were the liminal facets associated with the teenage years:  desires independence while also needing support and guidance; seeks approval from adults yet acceptance by peers; no longer a child but not yet fully an adult. This quality of liminality is noted as a key theme observed throughout conversations with Ritchie. It is reasonable to conclude that these adolescent feelings of “between-ness” are heightened and intensified by the very similar duality many people of color grapple with, e.g., the split personal identity as African and American; the social dilemma of “otherness” and invisibility; the political paradox of assimilation / differentiation.

    Cultural Focus Conclusions: The ancillary, cultural component of the investigation produced results generally matching predicted outcomes. Ritchie’s data points to personal experiences that strongly relate to the developmental markers pertaining to identity formation -- and markers in two other areas, here recognized as key themes: (1) melancholy, i.e., low self-esteem and sense of isolation; and (2) vulnerability – acute self and social awareness.  These results suggest that a teenager’s cultural background and ethnic identity may indeed have the effect of substantially highlighting and intensifying particular markers of adolescent development.

    Data comparison: Project data fully confirms the validity of established research on adolescent development. Study participant, Ritchie, acknowledged observation of almost every surveyed developmental indicator, either in himself or other teenagers. Project data reveals an emphasis on the adolescent developmental markers in two main areas, noted as themes: (1) sensitivity, i.e., self-consciousness, sensitivity to criticism, social vulnerability; and (2) emotionality – the highly charged intensity and creative energy of adolescence.

    Framework: The five core themes of the culturally relevant framework have been arranged in order of importance and aligned with core applications intended to anticipate and ameliorate the developmental stressors particular to urban adolescents of color. While the findings of this investigation are extremely limited, the format provides a structure and a starting point for further study. It is certainly a worthy and necessary line of research. The methodology is far more effective than the standard interview method. Planning a teen website proved to be an excellent structure for an open, objective discussion of teen topics. Along with being personally rewarding – both for me and my teen partner – the research has professional value because of the final, practical framework component. Fully developed, this culturally relevant developmental framework could be used in the same multiplicity of ways educators, librarians, artists and other professionals make practical use of the existing, generalized research detailing markers of adolescent development.

    Developmental Framework for Urban Young Adults of Color 

    Core Theme
    Core application
    1. Liminality Identity formation exploration;
    Desires independence while also needing support and guidance;
    Joy and heartbreak; Seeks approval from adults yet acceptance by peers
    Provide experiences that allow for an urban youth of color to understand that there are others who identify with their personal struggles and who have similar problems.
    2. Melancholy Low self-esteem; A sense of isolation or of being an “outcast” Provide educational experiences -- role-playing, drama, reading, music -- that allow urban teens to understand that they are not alone; Design experiences for urban teens to learn how to self-advocate.
    3. Vulnerability Acute awareness of the social world -- social vulnerability; Seeking a positive social role Recognize the importance of friendships and create opportunities for youth of color to form positive and healthy relationships with peers; Present role models; Be a role model -- helping urban teens connect intellectual and moral reasoning.
    4. Sensitivity Self-consciousness; Sensitivity to criticism Provide experiences that promote the exploration of personal freedom and independence within a safe space; Create environments that are free from harsh criticism, humiliation, sarcasm; Eliminate prejudice, stereotyping, discrimination and bullying.
    5. Emotionality Highly charged intensity and creative energy Provide experiences that show urban teens ways to organize information and materials; Offer teens new strategies for thinking about the world; Provide information on successful artists of color; Encourage and expect excellence.


    Adolescent Developmental Markers (ADM)

    1. Quest for Identity
    2. High idealism
    3. Self-centeredness; Self-consciousness; Sensitivity to criticism
    4. Desires independence while also needing support and guidance
    5. Developing a "moral compass"
    6. Testing boundaries of authority
    7. Highly charged emotionalism and intensity
    8. Peers become paramount; move in packs
    9. Joy and heartbreak of evolving love and friendships
    10. High visual and audio acuity

    Developmental Themes of Adolescence (DTA)
    1. Highly charged emotionalism and intensity
    2. Physical awkwardness
    3. Sense of isolation and/or being an "outcast"
    4. Exhilaration of new freedoms and independence
    5. Testing boundaries
    6. Joy and heartbreak of evolving love and friendships
    7. Acute awareness of the social world and your place within it
    8. Pain and struggle and a developing resilience
    9. Raw vulnerability in facing the world and its relationship in a very different way
    Core Concepts of Adolescence (CCA)

    1. Identity Development
    2. Loss of Innocence
    3. Testing boundaries and authority
    4. Independence and responsibility
    5. Greater emphasis on action and personal experience
    6. Developing a "moral compass"

    Sunday, May 8, 2011

    The Me Nobody Reads

    I think most teens can't come back to YAL because they never read it to begin with.

    Part of it is cultural. Although nearly 45% of public school students are students of color, YAL has only seen modest changes in diversity.

    Part of it is the YAL cover art.

    YAL publishers push to their "heavy users" -- the main buyers. Nothing wrong with that, except when publishers start "White Washing" books -- that is, featuring a White teenaged girl or young woman on the cover, even when the protagonist is clearly of color. It happens all the time. Justine Larbalestier is perhaps the most noted example for the cover of her book, the appropriately named: Liar.

    The left cover is the original. At right is the US reprint.

    And certainly part of the YAL disconnect is just a matter of taste.

    In an article called,Teen Reading Trends: 2011 , YALSA president, Kim Patton, provides some significant basic information.

    • What are some of the trends in young adult literature in 2011?

      While books about vampires continue to be popular, zombies appear to be the next big YA terror.

      Generally, books with supernatural aspects hold a lot of appeal to teens. Fantasy books continue to be popular. Romances and urban fiction are quickly gaining must-read status.

    • Do you see particular genres increasing in popularity?

      Urban fiction is getting more and more popular, whether teens live in the big city or in small towns.

    • I have seen varying definitions of “young adult literature” on the ALA site. What is the most accepted definition?

      Generally speaking, young adult literature is material aimed at teen readers’ interests. It can be fiction or nonfiction, a graphic novel or an audiobook. Generally, young adult literature features teen protagonists dealing with situations to which teens can relate.

    You may recall Ed Sullivan's article. He talked about the popularity of nonfiction:

    Abrahamson and Carter state, "Nonfiction becomes an increasingly important component in overall reading preferences as young adults mature." English teachers should remember that nonfiction is the preferred reading choice of many of their students.

    Abrahamson and Carter also note in their study of reading preferences of young adults, “What we know is that young adults in the middle and high schools of America make nonfiction books a substantial part of their self-selected reading . . . Educators must first of all recognize and reward the nonfiction reading that teens do just as they praise their reading of fiction”
    Citing Colman, Sullivan said there are at least three reasons why negative perceptions of nonfiction persist. The first is that, in the world of publishing for youth, the personal preferences of influential editors, educators, librarians, and reviewers of fiction have a profound impact. The second is the romanticized image adults have of children’s and young adult fiction. 

    The third reason is Zena Sutherland’s coining of the term informational books for nonfiction, which unfortunately caught on and continues to shape how people in education, librarianship, and publishing view the genre.

    Last year, Justine Larbalestier wrote an excellent blog on these topics. A few excerpts:

    I have been asked for my take on last week’s question about teenagers and reading. To be honest, it’s difficult to know where to start because there are so many assumptions embedded in those questions. I’ll start by unpacking them.

    1. There seems to be an implicit assumption that all teenagers are the same.
    2. There’s also an assumption in all these discussions about YA that it is primarily read by teenagers.
    3. Another assumption is that a) only reading fiction counts and b) reading is better for you than any other pastime.
    4. Then there’s the assumption that there is such a thing as good writing and bad writing and we all agree on what those are.

    Let me take numbers one & two first and point out the bleeding obvious. Not all teenagers read fiction. Of those that do read fiction, many are not reading YA at all. A sizeable proportion of those reading YA are 12 or younger or 20 and older. The age range of YA readership is every bit as broad as any other genre. Yet almost every discussion of the genre acts like it’s read only by teenagers.

    She goes on to say:

    What is so important about reading fiction? How is it superior to reading non-fiction? To reading newspapers, magazines, airplane manuals, the back of cereal boxes? Why is reading for pleasure so routinely exalted? Why is there so much panic about those who don’t read for pleasure?

    Look, don’t get me wrong, I love reading fiction. Even more than I love writing it. But I also love Elvis Presley and Missy Elliott and I don’t think it’s a sign of moral failure that others don’t love them. Why is not reading for pleasure a cause for panic?

    This is particularly invidious because I keep coming across teens, who read voraciously, who have teachers and librarians and parents freaking out that they’re not reading. Why? Because they’re not reading novels. They’re reading manga, or graphic novels, or books about cricket, or baseball, or jet engines, or World War II, or something else those well-meaning adults have decided doesn’t count. Sometimes teens have told me of well-meaning adults encouraging them to stop reading YA and start reading “real” adult books. You can imagine how I feel about that.

    Saturday, May 7, 2011

    Meet Mike Printz

    The Michael L. Printz Award is given to a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature.  It is named for a Topeka, Kansas school librarian who was a long-time active member of the Young Adult Library Services Association. The dedication web page at YALSA notes that Mike Printz had a passion for books and reading and "finding the right book for the right student at the right time." He died September 29, 1996, from complications following heart surgery.  The Michael L. Printz Award was established in 1999.

    Friday, May 6, 2011


    The Cyber-Savvy Scholar's Definitive
    Guide to the 10 Best Bookmarks, Ever






      Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Free All Information | Fine print is an admission of guilt.