a passionate discussion going on about "at least they are reading" - or the idea that it is better to be reading "trash" than nothing at all.
I have actually heard parents say of their children "well at least s/he's reading something" when they watch their children reading comics or some of the very lightweight books available in our local library.
And several days ago I had an interesting conversation with the librarian who organises some of the children's activities in the library. I was returning several of the books on the Carnegie long list and she wanted to know what I thought of them.
This librarian has a senior colleague who is in overall charge of the YA and children's books for all the libraries in the group. I know her views are very different and her approach is very different from that of her more junior colleague.
Her junior colleague then said, "You know all that vampire stuff doesn't really get read. Kids borrow it but they don't read it. Some of them start but they don't finish it."
Before I could respond two more of the library staff agreed with her. Soon they were telling me that there were (a) books on the shelves that have never been borrowed, (b) books that get borrowed because the kids have been told they are good, (c) books that are borrowed because they are books the kids are supposed to like and (d) books that are borrowed and read.
Allowing for generalisations and exaggerations I suspect that is true. The library is having the annual book sale today. I know I could walk in and pick up "as new" books that sat on the shelves for several years. They might have been borrowed by one or two readers because the YA librarian "suggested" them. They might, just might, have been read by the borrowers but they haven't passed the information on to their friends - and recommendation from your peer group is a pretty powerful recommendation.
There will be other books that the YA librarian has enthused about. These will be books like those on the Carnegie long list. Are they the children's and YA equivalent of "literary" writing? Perhaps some of them are. If so, they may not get read in much the way that many people never read the books that win adult awards for literary writing.
Then there will be books like the Twilight series and the Hunger Games which some borrowers will read avidly and others think they should read. These are books that have been incredibly well marketed - to the point where films have been made. They are supposed to be "wow!" books. I have talked to avid readers about these books. Opinions vary but I think it would be fair to say that the success of these books is as much about the marketing as it is about the reading experience. Of the several hundred teens I have talked to only a few were genuinely enthusiastic - and many had started but not finished the books.
And then there are the books which actually get read and re-read and passed around and genuinely enthused over. They are the books which kids who do read will queue to read. Are they trash?
In the comics stakes the books which fall to pieces soonest are not the Japanese style manga with particularly simplistic story lines but Asterix and Tin-Tin with the more complex story lines. (Yes, I recognise that some Japanese comics are more than simplistic but many are not.) I think that says something about reading choices.
Adults have the advantage when it comes to what children and YA readers are able to read. They write the books. They sell them to publishers. Publishers choose to buy. They sell them again. Librarians buy. Bookshops buy. Adults buy for children and YA readers. Even in a library children and YA readers will be "guided" by adults. Often adults want children to read "modern" books about "issues" or - at the other end - to read the "classics" they remember or believe they remember are good.
But the first "Harry Potter" was eventually published because a young reader thought it was "marvellous". It had been rejected by adult after adult before then. That suggests that sometime adults can get it very wrong.