When I see one of my students standing in front of the bookshelves in my classroom, I love to move near them and observe their selections. Some students go right for the familiar authors, the ones they’ve read before. Maybe pick up a new installment in a series. Others pull a few books off of the shelf, check out the covers, and read the backs to determine interest. And there is another group who browse and browse and won’t select a book without a teacher or peer recommendation.
What I’ve noticed, across all of the groups, is that 10-year-olds are fickle. Maybe fickle’s not the right word. Open. Open to new authors, new genres, new subject matter. No one child likes all of the same authors and types of books as another. While “Justin” may live on a diet heavy in fantasy with a few sprinkles of mystery, “Owen” may test a few fantasies while subsisting primarily on non-fiction. “Macy” is a Twilight die hard, but also has a thing for Diary of a Wimpy Kid, while “Tara” doesn’t care about vampires, but sneaks in chapters of Margaret Peterson Haddix between classes.
So what does this all mean? For me, as a teacher, it means populating my library with a wide variety of groups. As a writer, it means that I don’t have to conform to popular subjects. I can do what I’ve always learned – write what I know. And right now, what I know best is 5th graders. And boy, do they like a variety of books!