Reader, Know Thyself

BookendsLynn: Cindy and I have run an after-school book club for 16 years. We try to support our members as a fellowship of readers, encouraging them to read widely and develop literary criticism skills. Our latest lively, opinionated group is coming on fast, and I was thinking about using one of my favorite exercises with them: asking them to decide what kind of readers they are.

Listen, Slowly by Thanhha LaiExamining yourself as a reader is an eye-opening process. A fun way to start is to ask if you are a character-driven reader or a plot-driven reader. There are no right or wrong answers, but thinking about this helps readers young and old look at books in a new way.

With young people, start by briefly discussing the two terms, then provide examples like Listen, Slowly (2015) by Thanhhà Lai or Eleanor & Park (2013) by Rainbow Rowell (for character) and The Hunger Games (2008) by Suzanne Collins or I Am Princess X (2015) by Cherie Priest (for plot). Stress that the same book can sometimes be seen both ways.

Next, ask the kids to write down I Am Princess X by Cherie Priestseveral of their favorite books and then decide if the books are predominantly plot-driven or character-driven. Talk about one of your own favorite books to prime the pump, then stand back as the discussion flows.

I admit to still being of two minds about my own preferences. When I think about the book I’m currently reading—Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven King (2016)—I can’t decide if I’m more captivated by the plot or by the band of characters! Will they find Glendower? Will Blue’s kiss kill Gansey? Ack! Reader, know thyself, indeed!



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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