Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Middle Grade Fiction and Collection Development: Everything You Need to Know to Help Pre-Teens Transition into Teen Readers

At the Fort Worth Public Library, we’ve been working in collection development on our Middle Grade fiction collection. I’ve been working on putting together a general information resource for myself, and to have on hand to pass along to my fellow youth librarians. Today I’m going to share a bit of that with you and talk about why middle grade fiction, from here on out also referred to as MG Lit, is so vitally important. This is just a basic introduction, because this is such a rich and complex field of literature.

Some basic facts about MIDDLE GRADE FICTION:

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd is one of our favorite middle grade titles

Some more basics about middle grade . . .

 “Middle grade fiction deals with the things kids are going through at those ages: friendships made and lost, family relationships changing, physical changes, a wide range of school experiences, and a growing awareness of the wide world outside of oneself and the injustices it often contains.” – https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/76625-navigating-middle-grade.html

Middle grade fiction makes for great family read alouds and can appeal to readers of all ages, including adults. If you have parents expressing concern about the content of YA/Teen fiction, point them to middle grade fiction. A lot of the middle grade fiction written in the last few years has been taking it’s cue from YA; it’s rich, complex, well written and engaging story telling.

Middle Grade is the New YA and what that means . . .

Middle Grade fiction is, as I like to say, “the new YA” in terms of market growth and popularity. Over the past couple of years the market for MG fiction has been exploding. Many former YA authors are now writing MG as the category is having quite the renaissance. This is the sweet spot for older juvenile readers and early teens who are not ready for the 14+ age range of a lot of today’s YA fiction.

Here is a list of Middle Grade Publishers and Imprints: https://writingmiddlegrade.com/middle-grade-publishers-imprints/

It’s hard to get a good fix on how well, or not, middle grade is selling or circulating for us because these numbers aren’t isolated in any meaningful way that we can analyze. Middle grade is reported as a part of Children’s Fiction in the industry reports. But we can look at the bestsellers list and see that it is populated by titles like the Wimpy Kid series, the Percy Jackson series and the Raina Telgemeier graphic novels and know that MG lit is selling well.

There are some indicators for us that Middle Grade is growing: School Library Journal has recently begun dedicating an entire issue and webinar conference to Middle Grade, as has Publisher’s Weekly; publishers are putting more of an emphasis on MG lately, with book buzz panels, author spotlights and huge marketing pushes; many publishing houses are putting an emphasis on MG and launching MG graphic novel imprints. All signs point to the fact that MG lit is an important and rapidly growing market. Of course those of us who work with pre-teens have always known this.

Publisher’s Weekly has a series of posts on MG is you would like to learn more: https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/search/index.html?q=middle+grade&submit.x=0&submit.y=0

Graphic Novels are a big deal for middle grade readers

Why Middle Grade Fiction is Vitally Important: The Age of 9 Reading Decline

Research has shown that reading for fun and pleasure begins to drop off for our youth around the age of 9. This is solidly in the middle grade range. It is imperative that we promote reading middle grade books for fun and pleasure. Ways we can do this include not making judgments about what our youth are reading, giving them freedom of choice in what they read, and not taking the fun out of reading by doing this like testing, critiquing, shaming, or mocking reading experiences. Our goal is to create an environment where kids can read what they want and have positive associations with those reading experiences so that we can develop life long readers.

Here are some articles you may want to read about the “Age of 9 Reading Decline”

https://www.scholastic.com/parents/books-and-reading/raise-a-reader-blog/fourth-grade-reading-for-fun.html

https://offspring.lifehacker.com/why-kids-stop-reading-for-fun-by-age-9-and-what-to-do-1833554143

https://www.washingtonpost.com/

https://www.newamerica.org/education-policy/edcentral/4-surprises-scholastics/

Some things we can do to encourage reading as a lifelong habit:

  • Promote reading choice; research shows that kids are much more likely to enjoy reading books they have picked out for themselves
  • Do not shame reading choices. This includes recognizing that graphic novels are valid books to read, allowing kids to read the same books over and over again, and looking the other way at fart jokes and vomit gags.
  • Create comfortable reading spaces
  • Continue to read aloud to and with older kids
  • Recognize the value in audio books and other non-traditional forms of reading.
  • Model reading
  • Recognize that the “classics” that spoke to you may now be outdated, considered harmful/offensive, or just not connect with a new generation of readers. Have newer titles available to recommend at all times to connect with today’s readers.

Middle Grade Resources: Awards, Blogs and Book Lists

Middle Grade Awards

Coretta Scott King Book Awards

The Coretta Scott King Book Awards are given annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.  http://www.ala.org/emiert/cskbookawards

Newbery Medal

The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/newberymedal/newberymedal

Blogs that focus on Middle Grade readers in general

The Nerdy Book Club: https://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/

Ms. Yingling Reads: http://msyinglingreads.blogspot.com/

MG Book Village: https://mgbookvillage.org/

Here Wee Read: http://hereweeread.com/

Mr. Schu Reads: http://mrschureads.blogspot.com/

CeCeLibrarian’s Book Blog: https://cecelibrarian.com/

Kid Lit Frenzy: http://www.kidlitfrenzy.com/

Books in the Middle: https://booksinthemiddle.wordpress.com/

Middle Grade Minded: http://middlegrademinded.blogspot.com/

KidLit Underground: https://kidlitunderground.com/

Mixed Up Filed for Middle Grade Authors: https://fromthemixedupfiles.com/

A Mighty Girl Middle Grade Posts: https://www.amightygirl.com/blog/tag/middle-grade

Middle Grade Reading Lists

Own Voices Reading Lists

#OwnVoices Middle Grade Books: https://imaginationsoup.net/diverse-realistic-chapter-books-middle-school-ownvoices/

#OwnVoices Fiction for Grades 2-6: https://seattle.bibliocommons.com/list/share/220740577/650702937

Diverse Realistic Chapter Books for Middle School by #Own Voices: https://imaginationsoup.net/diverse-realistic-chapter-books-middle-school-ownvoices/

Diverse Books for Tweens and Teens by Own Voices Authors: https://www.readbrightly.com/diverse-books-tweens-teens-written-voices-authors/

8 #OwnVoices Middle Grade Books by LatinX Authors: https://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/8-fabulous-ownvoices-middle-grade-latinx-novels-giveaway/

Reading Lists by Genre

Heartfelt Middle Grade Fiction that will make you cry: https://www.readbrightly.com/heartfelt-middle-grade-books/

Diverse Historical Middle Grade: https://www.whatdowedoallday.com/diverse-historical-middle-grade-fiction/

Contemporary Diverse Middle Grade Reads: https://www.whatdowedoallday.com/contemporary-diverse-middle-grade-books/

Humorous Middle Grade Books: https://www.whatdowedoallday.com/funny-middle-grade-books/

Middle School Mystery Books: https://bookriot.com/middle-school-mystery-books/

Round Up and Best of Lists

Good Reads Giant List of Middle Grade Novels of 2020: https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/111976.Middle_Grade_Novels_of_2020?page=1

100 Best Middle Grade Fantasy of the Last 10 Years: https://bookriot.com/middle-grade-fantasy/

The Ultimate List of Middle Grade Fiction (2018): https://www.beyondthebookends.com/2018/04/17/middle-grade-fiction/

Popular Middle Grade Authors

Reading Rockets: 75 Authors/Illustrators Everyone Should Know: https://www.readingrockets.org/article/75-authorsillustrators-everyone-should-know         

See also: New Authors of Color Writing for Kids: https://www.readbrightly.com/new-authors-of-color-writing-for-kids/

  • Hanna Alkaf
  • Kwame Alexander
  • Joan Bauer
  • Judy Blume
  • Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
  • Max Braillier
  • Erin Bowman
  • Meg Cabot
  • Ally Carter
  • Roshani Chokshi
  • Sandra Cisneros
  • Beverly Cleary
  • Brandy Colbert
  • Lindsay Currie
  • Roald Dahl
  • Sayantani DasGupta
  • Stuart Gibbs
  • Lamar Giles
  • Alex Gino
  • Alan Gratz
  • Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • Shannon Hale
  • Corey Ann Haydu
  • Carlos Hernandez
  • Linda Mullaly Hunt
  • Varian Johnson
  • Mike Jung
  • Erin Entrada Kelly
  • Jessica Khoury
  • Jeff Kinney
  • Gordon Korman
  • Natalie Lloyd
  • Joy McCullough
  • Tehlor Kay Mejia
  • Kate Messner
  • Kate Milford
  • Lauren Oliver
  • Mary Pope Osborne
  • Linda Sue Park
  • Jason Reynolds
  • Pam Munoz Ryan
  • Amy Sarig King
  • Ronald L. Smith
  • Rebecca Stead
  • Nic Stone
  • Lauren Tarshis
  • Anne Ursu
  • Louis Sachar
  • Renee Watson
  • Kelly Yang

As I have mentioned above, none of this is an exhaustive list by any means. It’s just a basic introduction. If you have links to share or authors to add, please share them in the comments. We cover MG here at TLT because it’s an important transitional part of helping grow and serve teen readers.

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