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Making the Match: Why finding the right book is important by Teri Lesesne (guest post)

One of my teens making a match!

A few weeks ago, I read about the YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) summer course entitled Making the Match.  I decided to email the instructor for this course, Teri Lesesne, to see if she would be interested in writing a guest post for us.  Teri is @professornana via Twitter and is a professor of library science at Sam Houston State University in Texas.  See what she has to say about why finding the right book is important and if you are able, I encourage you to take her course offered through YALSA!

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning bug and lightning, to paraphrase Robert Frost. The same is true when it comes to matching a reader and a book.  Coming close is not enough particularly for teens who might be less than enthusiastic readers. Finding the right book requires knowledge, skill, and sometimes a bit of luck.  What elements are important in this process? 

A first and often overlooked step is to have a thorough working knowledge of the readers we wish to assist.  In the case of tweens and teens, we need to know how they develop intellectually, morally, and developmentally.  We need to understand aspects of their culture.  I confess that I did not always consider some of the theorists I studied in college.  How did Maslow and Piaget and Havighurst and Kohlberg factor into helping readers find good books, books that would speak to them  leaving them to demand more?  Where readers are in terms of their development can often affect responses to reading.

The second step in matching readers and books relies on a knowledge of the books themselves.  How could we ever hope to find the right books unless we are reading dozens if not hundreds of books for tweens and teens?  Have we read selections from the YALSA lists?  Have we scanned the bestseller lists for titles we do not know? Have we read the movies made from books? Are there other places we can turn for suggestions of the books we should read?

Finally, matching readers and books requires we have an arsenal of strategies for getting books into the hands of the readers.  Booktalking is certainly key here, but how else can we let readers know about the really good books even when we are not available for booktalks? Shelf talkers, blogs, bibliographies, displays, and more are key strategies, too.
Seems simple on the surface.  However, we all know it is a complex and demanding task: finding that just right book. This summer I will offer a course through YALSA called Making the Match.  We will spend 6 weeks talking and sharing and learning together.  I hope some of you will join me.  Information about the course is on the YALSA site (http://www.ala.org/yalsa/onlinelearning/onlinecourses/making_the_match).  In the meantime, grab a book and read!

Thanks so much to Teri for appearing on our blog and I hope that this post inspires you to work even harder in making the match with our teens and the book!  — Stephanie