You don’t have to be young to read young adult literature.
In PPL’s new hour-long program, Young Adult (YA) Literature for Older Adults, brought to the community by the creative and enthusiastic Laura Brown, you’ll be introduced to diverse topics, formats, and styles of writing from a variety of authors, and you’ll get to read and discuss excerpts from some great titles (that you can then check out!).
On Saturday, Oct. 15, at noon, in the Potsdam Public Library North Country Section, come share an hour with Laura where you will get to learn more about all that YA Literature has to offer to readers of ALL ages, focusing on historical fiction.
Laura is SUNY Potsdam’s Chair / Associate Professor, Secondary English, and Program Coordinator for the Adolescence English Education Program. She teaches Young Adult Literature as well as the MST and undergraduate methods courses, and Intro to Education.
But Laura is also passionate about her community. In developing this program with PPL, Laura talked about her love of working with people.
“(B)ut I especially love working with older adults,” she said. “I think some of that comes from the fact that my dad and I were so close. He was 53 when I was born, and I didn’t get to have him in my life for very long, but that just made the moments we did have together more special.”
Laura said her father was “a born storyteller,” who would make up stories (and different voices for his characters) for her and her brothers, when she was a little girl, . They would huddle together on the bed, mesmerized by their father’s tales.
Sharing stories with others is Laura’s way of recapturing her father’s gift of storytelling.
“I used to volunteer at Maplewood in Canton, and I would read to residents,” she said. “It was such a joy to be able to give that time and those stories to people who really needed and wanted them. When that ended, I spent years trying to figure out how to reconnect, and I wound up doing that through the development of a SOAR (Stimulating Opportunities After Retirement) class with the same name: YA Literature for Older Adults. I love YA Literature, and I love working with older people, so win-win!”
Young Adult Literature became of specific interest to Laura when she taught high school and was confronted with a closet full of books that were both “amazing” and “disappointing.”
“Most of the books were older and were not really geared toward young adults. It’s not that they were bad books, but I remembered reading a number of them myself as a teenager. Wasn’t there anything new?” she said. “Also, I was working at a school that had a significant population of struggling readers from very diverse backgrounds, and I needed books that would draw them in and let them see themselves in the pages. Honestly, I wasn’t sure where to start.”
She began buying books geared towards young adults from used book stores and started her own classroom library. In reading as many as she could, she said she found the writing “every bit as strong as some of the classics we were ‘supposed’ to read.”
“(A)nd students were more drawn to the characters and the topics because they were more relevant,” she said. “When I decided to go to graduate school and, eventually, to get my PhD, I put my focus on YA Literature and how it can help students better understand the world around them and their place in it.”
And that is where the PPL Program YA Literature for Older Adults comes in: examining a stigma of reading YA Literature, Laura said.
“I have had some parents come to me upset that their kids are ‘only’ reading YA Literature, as if it’s a bad thing. For me, reading is an essential skill, and if young people are reading at all, then that should be celebrated!” Laura said. “Also, YA Literature is not ‘less than’ other literature. YA authors are often more innovative, inclusive, and risky in their writing, as they have a tough audience! Plus, YA Literature can teach us more about adolescents themselves, and there’s a lot to learn!”
In working with the library on this program, Laura said she has had a love of libraries since she was a preteen, walking to her local library with a backpack and check out as many books as she was able, (which she believed to be 10 books at that time).
“The library, to me, is a magical place, but I think because we can just open our computers and get books online, the library has faded into the background a bit,” Laura said. “Don’t get me wrong, access is important – if people are buying books online and reading, then yay! – but I really want to draw people back to the library as a community space to talk about books, to share ideas, to have conversations about what we read. There is nothing like holding a book in your hand and turning the pages. And there is nothing like sitting around a table with other people and hearing their perspectives on different stories.
“Reading is often seen as a solitary event, something we do silently in bed at night or at our desks in school, but I would argue that it can also be a shared experience,” she said. “And that’s what I’m hoping to create with this, and hopefully, future events. I want to read with people, to get them excited about new books, to hear stories and perspectives, and build a new (old) community of readers.”
To sign up for this Saturday’s Young Adult Literature for Older Adults, visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ya-lit-for-older-adults-tickets-431867817267