Warning! This List Contains Drugs, Violence, Language, Sex, Abuse, and Some of the Most Amazing Things on the Planet! YALSA's Quick Picks List

By Gruenthal, Heather | Young Adult Library Services, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

Warning! This List Contains Drugs, Violence, Language, Sex, Abuse, and Some of the Most Amazing Things on the Planet! YALSA's Quick Picks List


Gruenthal, Heather, Young Adult Library Services


The Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers committee is made up of eleven library professionals from all over the United States who represent our nation's teens. They work in public schools, private

schools, arts academies, youth shelters, public libraries, and juvenile detention centers. Members of the Quick Picks Committee read hundreds of books and lurk in teen hangouts such as bookstores, comic book and craft stores, their local teen room, Walmart, Urban Outfitters, and Hot Topic to find some fun, interesting, and downright crazy books. We survey books published in the last eighteen months that will get even the most reluctant teen to pick up a book and READ!

The committee relies heavily on teen feedback to determine what books other reluctant readers will find interesting. When a book gets the approval of teens from our focus groups across the country, chances are they will work with your teens too. Through my work with Quick Picks, I must admit I've become a reluctant reader; I won't read anything unless it captures my attention immediately. There are too many good books out there to waste any time on something I don't love. The same rule should apply to our reluctant readers. Quick Picks is a list that appeals to a wide variety of teens, from the kid who never finished a whole book in his life, to the Advanced Placement student who doesn't have time to read for fun, but will stay up all night reading Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games and go on to devour the trilogy. Sometimes we do our job too well, and our students go on from not reading at all to becoming avid readers once they find their reading niche.

What is a Quick Pick?

The charge for Quick Picks is "To prepare an annual annotated list of recommended books appropriate for reluctant young adult readers. The list is for young adults (ages 12-18) who, for whatever reasons, do not like to read. The purpose of this list is to identify titles for recreational reading, not for curricular or remedial use." (1)

It is important to note that Quick Picks are not instructional books for teens taking remedial reading classes; that is another kind of literacy problem that requires special books and instruction. In the past, YALSA had a selection group called the High Interest/Low Literacy Level Materials Evaluation Committee, but the committee's charge was changed to what is now known as Quick Picks when they found that remedial books "did not accomplish the purpose of improving reading because kids wouldn't select them. Teens hated being labeled as remedial and singled out with special books." (2) As a result of these findings, the Quick Picks committee changed its focus to a more teen centered rather than a materials centered approach.

What is a Reluctant Reader?

According to Gregory Lure, 2011 Quick Picks chair,

   [A reluctant reader] is a girl who does
   not like to read. It may be a boy more
   interested in nonfiction than in fiction.
   It is a girl who turns to the end of the
   book to see the number of pages. It is an
   AP student who is 'overbooked' with
   studying, an afterschool job, sports, and
   activities. It is a boy who wants to read
   what everyone else is reading. It is a girl
   who has never found the 'right' book. A
   reluctant teen reader can be from any
   demographic. (3)

Our target audience, the reluctant reader, can read, but chooses not to because the books they are exposed to are not interesting to them. This is particularly understandable in these tough budget times when there are very few new books to choose from in schools and libraries. Probably the only books these teens get exposure to are instructional materials that teachers make them read.

The Importance of Self Selection

Self selection is important to reluctant readers. The quickest way to kill interest in reading is to force teens to read something. For example, Walter Dean Myers has been a Quick Picks author multiple times for books such as: Shooter, Street Love, What They Found: Love on 145th Street, Dope Sick, and most recently, Lockdown; proving he can win over a teen audience again and again.

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Warning! This List Contains Drugs, Violence, Language, Sex, Abuse, and Some of the Most Amazing Things on the Planet! YALSA's Quick Picks List
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