Reading Journal 7 – How Important is Age or Grade Level as a Marketing Tool?

In the past couple of weeks I have had the pleasure of reading several books whose publishers marketed them as Middle Readers, or books to be read by 10 – 14 year-olds. I am far past 10 – 14 and yet, they were all, to a one, remarkably satisfying reads. Granted none of them reached two hundred pages in length, but that did not seem to put a dent in the power of their stories and certainly not the strength of their writing.

So, what’s my point? What, we should all go out and buy middle readers? No, but as adults how many books have we read because they were marketed as Adult readers 21 – 101. On the other hand, how often have Middle Reader books even been in the realm of possibility? When, if we still shop a brick and mortar, is the last time we seriously browsed the “kids” section with the thought of finding something we might like for ourselves? Publishing is a business and the use of age or grade range as marketing tools serves them well. It is also helpful for librarians, school and public. But is it necessarily useful for the general readership?

The general reading population should think about what compels us to pick a particular book and not to pass up a book because of its marketed target. As adults, we already know that a lot of YA, young adult, titles are terrific reads. It’s time to include Middle Reader titles into that mix, and I’m here to suggest at least a few. Not all have been reviewed by Bookin’ with Sunny, but they’ve all been read by me and unless I miss my guess, they qualify as good reads regardless of the age of the reader.

  1. The Van Gogh Cafe, by Cynthia Rylant.
  2. Ludie’s Life by Cynthia Rylant
  3. Aleutian Sparrow by Karen Hesse
  4. The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo
  5. The Veil of Snows by Mark Helprin
  6. A City in Winter by Mark Helprin
  7. The Misadventures of Maude March by Audrey Couloumbis
  8. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
  9. The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
  10. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  11. Revolution is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Compestine

When I was behind the counter at Bonanza Books and Clayton Books, I would often be told by parents that their child was now reading so they only wanted me to suggest books without pictures. Phooey. Almost every book on my list is illustrated and believe me, the illustrations never detract, only enhance the story. Have you ever brought a hospital patient a 400 page bestseller novel to pass the time? Think about it the next time you gift a book. A literary middle reader book is perfect. If it is a good book, it is also the ideal opportunity, after everybody in the family has read it, to talk about it at the dinner table. After all, the family the reads together, well……they’re smarter.

Not all Middle Reader books will be enjoyed by adults, but the ones that can be, ought to be. I hope this list gives you some ideas about what to read next. I’d love to hear from you, maybe I’m nuts, or maybe you’ve got a few other titles you’d recommend. – Sunny Solomon

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