Hey, warriors! Welcome or welcome back to Words! Today’s post will be pretty casual since I’d like to just have a sort of conversation with you, and first up on the agenda is an explanation as to why I just called you warriors and why I’m going to keep it up. Ready? *makes a cup of coffee* Let’s dive in!

Warriors

You’ve probably heard people say that the pen is mightier than the sword before, right? And you may have also heard of books changing lives, especially one book called the Bible (I’m a Christian and proud of it, changed by the Bible not because of words but because of the Spirit in the Word of God. Read John 1:1 if you don’t understand. But this post isn’t about what I believe in this regard.). If you think about it, a pen has begun wars and a pen has ended wars. A pen has started revolutionary movements and saved lives. If someone holds this power, I think they’re a warrior, don’t you? So I’ll be calling you warriors from now on. *sips coffee and nods*

So how are you guys? How are your writing projects going? What books are you reading? Any questions lately? I want to hear all about what’s on your minds, if you’re willing to be the warrior you are and tell us. I also want you to know that this place is a safe place. I will personally delete anything meant to hurt because this place is for a family, a group of friends, and a team of writers and readers supporting and teaching each other. Please get to know each other more in the comments! I challenge you to reply to one person you’ve never talked to before. Your words could change both of your lives, even in a small way. So maybe answer my questions. Maybe introduce yourself and say hi to everyone. I’ll be responding to as many comments as possible.

Why I read more kids’ books than YA books

What’s that your asking? *sips coffee and looks at you innocently* Oh, you clicked this post to find out why I read kids books and choose to miss out on all the excitement of stuff for my age? Not to be asked a bunch of questions and told you’re part of some family you didn’t really ask to join? *swallows coffee calmly* *sets coffee down* I should probably explain that. Since I’m a storyteller, I’ll start with a little story.

Every Wednesday I visit the library with my family. Normally I’m not thrilled to be there simply because I’m being tutored on how to take the ACT test best, but even still I always have time to look at books (although I admit that occasionally this time has been used for texting). One fateful day I decided that instead of sitting around waiting to test I’d look at the books. As I entered the children’s section, I overheard two boys talking (far too loudly for a library) about some Pokémon books. I ignored them at first since boys will be boys, but then the older boy made a comment about children’s books being babyish (except Pokémon, he meant) and he was going to look in the teen section because, he would have the other boy know, he was thirteen. Now I could tell the younger boy wasn’t extremely happy with this comment and I was one row over so I calmly peeked around the corner to tell them that I was older than them both and I was in the children’s section. The older boy was embarrassed that I heard him and somewhat insulted when I gently alerted him of how loud he was. But we both returned to perusing the shelves. A few minutes later I happened to glance up and spot him in the teens’ section. For some reason, I felt the urge to talk to this stranger again and tell him that he should look in the kids’ section, and I did so, offering my reasons. Soon after he was, to my slight discomfort but satisfaction, following me through the shelves of “babyish” books. Do you know what books he really wanted in the end? Take a guess.

He wanted Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Hank the Cow Dog.

I laughed to myself softly and sadly when I saw that. Do you know why?

Books are often labeled “kids’” or “teens’” not only by the age of the characters but also by the content. This means that it apparently appeals to teens to read books filled with unnecessary language and actions that parents don’t encourage but their reading material discusses. This means many adult authors writing books for teenagers feel the urge to include the darker side of humanity in their work simply because they believe that’s what teens want to read and hear. They insert passionate romance and cussing into all genres and wave their beliefs like a banner. In some ways, this exposes their hearts, but, in many ways, it is cunningness or ignorance that children’s authors often don’t use in writing.

Not all teens want to act like they’re married to someone they hardly know. Not all teens curse like a walking dictionary of explicit language. Not all teens believe or want to be persuaded into believing in political views, religious ideas, or other concepts. Maybe some teens just want a story; maybe some teens just want to read about someone who is like them and makes it through whatever they’re going through. Some YA authors acknowledge this, but not enough do. I walk into my library’s teen section and am immediately disgusted by covers of romance books and titles that leave me in the dark as to whether or not I can trust the book. I’m afraid to open these books because I don’t ever know what I might find. These are the products of fools and masters both: the fools write this way because they only know their own heart, not teens, and the masters write this way because they know teens are most likely to learn a new way or new belief because their minds are still developing and trying to separate from their parents as they get older. If you’re careful about your companions, then you should be wary of these books because a book well-written becomes a companion.

Now I also read children’s fiction because it is simple and to the point. These books are about kids learning how strong they can be, what complex feelings are, and how to come together to make the world better. These books can be masterfully written and have you on the edge of your seat with a simple theme almost everyone can agree on. If we’re all so set on being politically correct, why aren’t we more aware of the way words often divide when they could bring people together? These books also contain imagination that teens scoff at and adults laugh at because it can’t be believed. These books are the treasures of childhood that have been preserved in some authors’ minds formed into words that make us gasp and laugh and smile with pleasure. These books bring us back to simpler times.

Now don’t get me wrong. Some “kids’” books would be classified as these teen books if someone took the time to read them before calling them kids’ books. I’ve started one that was ridiculously political in chapter one and I’ve read a kids’ book with bad language and some references that I very much didn’t care for. And some teens’ books are amazing. Dust, Shadow, and The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson are some of my favorite books, as well as Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt. Ignite by Jenna Terese is beautiful and The Lunar Chronicles were overall excellent stories. Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch had me up way past my bedtime. But even several of these books contain unnecessary romance and references. I’m starting to think that a book without a kiss (or a million kisses) is hardly a YA book. It shouldn’t be this way.

In my writing, I’m taking a stand. I don’t want to use bad language when it doesn’t add to the story (which it normally doesn’t, in my opinion). I don’t want to discuss only the romantic troubles teens suffer. I don’t want books about bullying to only be in the middle-grade category. I want stories that teens can relate to that encourage us to go down the right paths because a book is food for the mind and we teens are mostly offered junk. I want to change that.

What about you? What are your thoughts on kids’ books vs. teens’ books? Do you accept the huge amount of explicit content in YA or are you against it? What is your favorite YA book without much or no explicit content? Let me know in the comments!

41 thoughts on “Why I Read More Kids’ Books Than YA Books: A Casual Conversation Post

  1. “If you’re careful about your companions, then you should be wary of these books because a book well-written becomes a companion.” Love this quote. And it’s so true. Books are good friends, and friends are great—but dangerous.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I 100% agree with you that oftentimes romance is overdone (*ahem* I’m 13, I’m not interested in that, ok?) and there’s way too much cursing (it’s just not teaching us right). However, I think some things like immigration and rape are important topics for teens to learn about (in the right book, of course), and they make a book good because they are real experiences and have a really important message to help us learn more about the people around us. I don’t look down on children’s books though – sometimes I need a romance-less book that doesn’t have cursing all over it – but I also think that there is YA that’s clean enough and important for us to read as we grow up.
    Wow, sorry for the long comment! Anyway, I loved this post – and your blog!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. i completely get this, kaley. it’s nice to know i’m not the only one who’s frustrated by the content in YA novels (: also- i could give you some clean YA recs on ydubs if you want?

    Liked by 4 people

      1. I could always use some book recommendations! It is so frustrating to find well-written books that don’t include such grown-up topics. I don’t necessarily mind romance, but that shouldn’t be in every single YA book. I’m glad that I am not the only one having trouble with this. Such a powerful post! Love this blog!

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Yes, me too! The ones I listed were good if you haven’t read them and I’m going to be adding favorites to my reading list page. What books are your favorite? Thank you so much! That means a lot.

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  4. Yes. THIS. I regretfully must refuse coffee, since caffeine will make me stay up even later than I do. But I’d love to chat about this topic!
    In addition to everything you mentioned in this post, I think children’s books are just a richer category in general. They range in difficulty from picture books (which, if they’re good, can have layers and layers of depth) to even some classics. Most adults and teens could probably gain more from the children’s section than anywhere else in the library, if they didn’t dismiss it as “babyish.”
    Another sad thing I’ve noticed is how the said themes and content of YA books have been seeping into middle grade fiction, too. This is even scarier since the younger your mind is, the easier it can be affected. I remember a few years ago when I read some books that casually slipped in certain ideas. I didn’t realize how they had affected me until a lot later.
    And this is why my focus in writing is middle grade fiction (my current WIP is middle grade contemporary). I think it’s the genre that I can help fix most effectively. Besides, the difficulty level of many middle grade books are about the same as YA books.
    Anyway, what are some of your favorite children’s books? My current favorite series is The Penderwicks, I love the picture book Watercress, and Charlotte’s Web has been my all-time favorite children’s book for a long time. I could go on… but I’d rather hear from y’all (may or may not be preparing for a library haul😉).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah, yes, probably a good idea to not drink coffee…
      Agreed! They really do have so many layers!
      Definitely! It’s awful. I hate it so much! It’s scary.
      Exactly the same reason I write YA!
      I love Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys… The Boxcar Children are amazing. I also enjoy the Wingfeather Saga and so many others… I can’t hardly think right now though, lol.
      (Sorry! Your comment deleted itself for some reason.)

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Seconding that about the midgrade fiction. We ran into some really awful stuff in the chapter books section of the kids department at our local library. I was very much not a fan.

      After careful searching, we did find a few great reads in the YA department as well, but–we mostly had to avoid it. And that’s sad, because some of the best-written stories I’ve ever read are YA.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is so true and very well written!!
    I actually tend to read more YA books due to the facts that my family has membership to a local Christian library (so all cleans and mostly Christian content), which has been such a blessing (though I do love the children’s section :)).

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Yeah, Christian libraries are nice. We have one in our area, but unfortunately, most of the books are non-fiction. XD It’s still a great resource, though. Well, if you don’t have one in your area, Emma, you should just start one! 😀

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Oh hey, I actually should. It would be a hybrid Christian bookstore/library and writing workshop, and I’d teach classes every summer to supplement my income, and then I’d sell things online so that I didn’t go out of business in my small town where there’d be no demand. And then BOOM—profitable writing career, PLUS our town gets a Christian library.

          Liked by 2 people

  6. Great post, Kaley. I completely agree. So many YA books out there have horrible content. Every time I go into the teen section at my library I suddenly feel depressed, almost like there’s an evil weight in the air. (Sorry, that’s a bit dramatic, but it’s true.) I typically stick to MG books for that reason, unless a friend or someone I know recommends a YA book.

    One YA book I’d recommend is The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson. It is AMAZING. Hardly any romance (except for mild crushes between a few characters, but nothing beyond that), no swearing or even hinting at swearing, and overall nothing bad. They are super clean, wholesome books. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I relate to this a lot. I’m at the point in my life where I’m not as interested in kid’s books, but it can be a struggle to find clean books. I’ve found some good authors on Kindle Unlimited though!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. It’s nice to find another teenager who’s like me when it comes to books. Like with secular fiction, I literally only read Middle Grade because I don’t have to worry about explicit content that I’m not comfortable with reading, or that isn’t God-glorifying. It’s much easier to find something that is wholesome in that section. And whenever I have read YA, it was usually Christian YA, but even then, I don’t read it often. There’s something about children’s fiction that is so light-hearted and warm, which I absolutely love.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. *nodding* As the world gets darker, books just don’t stop getting grosser as a whole… finding that one good one that also isn’t Christian is nearly impossible and finding any YA without romance is much harder than it should be.

      Liked by 3 people

  9. Yes! I’ve been thinking about this a lot. It hurts me when my classmates sneer at The Wingfeather Saga or some other books in the children’s section. My sister and I mostly read the children’s books because of how powerful and simple the message is. There are so many treasures and jewels hidden in the Children’s section that people often overlook.

    Just looking at my library checkouts, the amount of Children’s books I read far outnumbers the few YA books I’ve checkout. Without Children’s books, we would not have Winnie the Pooh, or The Wingfeather Saga, or The Mysterious Benedict Society.

    Great post, I totally agree with it.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Ah, this is very true! It makes me think of Suzanne Collins. Everyone knows her for the Hunger Games Trilogy. However, before that, she published the Underland Chronicles. While the HG is YA, UC is middle-grade. I read UC first, and I LOVED it. It’s one of my favorite series. I only read the first book of the HG trilogy, and I didn’t like it all that much.
    Both series are very similar in writing styles and topics. It’s the same author, of course. While Hunger Games is still a very well-written novel, it’s. . . to me, far more repulsive. HG has much more descriptive romance and a good deal of nakedness, UC is very clean; the only exceptions are violence and a bit of romance.
    I don’t like romance, but I have to admit, Collins knows how to write it. It’s a sneaky tactic, really, to heavily fuel the “teenage” series with romance and stuff, while middle-grade kids don’t often lean as hard toward romance. And, it’s not a popular opinion, but I highly dislike that: giving teens romance-full books solely because authors know they crave it. Books, of course, should be entertaining, but not *just* entertainment. Teaching, too.
    I doubt that made any sense, but. . . yeah. 😅

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Kaley, I’ve been waiting to hear this for SO LONG. Whenever people ask me what books I read/like to read, I always get embarrassed to admit them, because, for one, most of them are middle grade, and, well, most teens I encounter who ask me this don’t read middle grade at that age. Secondly, I don’t read books like LOTR or Harry Potter or Hunger Games etc. It’s filled with evil things that don’t belong in our world. Personally, I think reading all about evil or cheesy romance is not appropriate for teens. Not that I don’t like books with villains or a little bit of romance. I do. But a whole book about it? Non. And because I don’t read those “popular” books that everyone expects me to have read, it’s hard to tell people. So this post really was helpful and made my day. I’ve really been needing to hear this for so long, thanks Kales for putting it in front of me ;D

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely!! It’s awkward sometimes!
      Now I do read those ones, but darker ones I won’t. There’s a definite line.
      A book doesn’t need to be made of sticky honey or too much sugar to be sweet. I definitely prefer the more “natural” books. The ones more realistic to my life. I’m so glad this post helped you! Go ahead and send people the link to this post when they ask why you read kids books. Please!

      Liked by 3 people

  12. One of the things I’ve loved all along about The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is that they weren’t pigeonholed as “children’s fiction” or “adult fiction.” They seem to have inhabited a category that was more all-encompassing, although I first read the books as a child and loved them. They have consistently been among my favorites since my aunt first gifted them to me–but they are still among my favorites now as well.

    I seem to not be alone in this. I wish we could come up with a genre based around books like The Hobbit and C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series, and other books of similar excellent writing that we could call “E” (for Everyone) and you’d instantly know: if it’s labeled “E,” it’s a great read and anyone who’s able can read it and enjoy it.

    I tried to write my own YA books in that way, but given the left-hand turn the YA books flooding the market have taken, I am just not at all comfortable promoting them as YA anymore, but they aren’t particularly children’s books or midgrade either. They do have a little romantic interest thrown in and some violence does happen in the battles between the forces of good and evil, but I try not to get graphic with it.

    Anyway, this discomfort with the genre-labeling is one of the things that has stalled out my willingness to publish more books in the series. And I’ve realized that I probably need to repackage them in a different way so I can get past it. Failing the ability to label them “E,” I’ll probably just drop the YA categorization, and leave it at that.

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    1. I do agree! An Everyone category would be amazing. Those books are such classics and definitely a great example.

      I admire your determination, although I would say that by writing good books that aren’t classified as YA doesn’t affect the problem itself. By allowing them to be YA, we add opportunities for good books to reach teens. I don’t read YA but I write YA. Though I can’t get rid of the bad books on my own, I can contribute to the books that can change lives for the better. I can write best friends for everyone within closest reach to teens. I agree that YA is dark and can paint my work in a bad light to the people who read good books, but I want to reach those who read bad books with a good book. I can’t change the world by standing but by shining as I walk along. When I stand alone, I will get hit and fall; when I walk along as a luminary, following those who need the light, I shine whether they want to see me or not. For me, this is the way. I hope you find your way!

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  13. This is such a good post. When I turned 13 I felt like that meant it would be weird for me to keep reading books from the children’s section and that I no longer belonged there, so I started trying to explore. Yeah uhm…turns out I REALLY don’t belong in the YA section. I also have a few YA favorites but I just feel safer in the children’s section, and come on ;-; Keeper of the Lost Cities is amazing even though the main character is only 12 in the first book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For sure! I really wish that books were less labeled “teen” and more rated “for 13+” or something. While there are good YA books, so many of them aren’t friendly toward actual teens… and KotLC is definitely awesome. XD

      Liked by 1 person

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