E. B. White once wrote in a letter to his editor saying, “I would rather wait a year than publish a bad children’s book, as I have too much respect for children.”
It’s a quote Melissa Sweet includes in her book Some Writer: The Story of E .B. White, and it’s a quote Manager of Special Studies and Youth Programs Karen Schiavone, who selected most of the books for this year’s CLSC Young Readers book list, takes to heart.
“You don’t write down to a kid. You write to them, but you don’t write down to them,” Schiavone said. “Kids are smart. They can handle you including them in the conversation. We owe it to them.”
Schiavone places great importance on intergenerational conservations, which is why she said she and her colleagues try to make the CLSC Young Readers’ books fall under Chautauqua’s weekly theme in order to give families common topics to discuss at the dinner table.
“When parents and grandparents are going to the morning lectures and the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle lectures, and they are reading the same books for the week, we want to give kids something to be able to take home to the dinner table that night and be able to share about ‘The Ethics of Dissent’ (one of the weekly themes),” Schiavone said.
Many visitors to Chautauqua choose a week to spend on the grounds based on the theme, Schiavone said, because they think about how it can transform them and how they can take home what they have learned.
Schiavone advocates for opportunities for kids, which she said is her way of making a difference.
“The opportunity to be able to participate in that conversation is huge for a kid,” Schiavone said. “I just think that we owe it to them, to make them a part of that conversation.”
This year, CLSC Young Readers offers a list with 11 books that encompass a variety of topics, genres and formats, in order to give children of different ages opportunities to find books they can enjoy.
“We’ve picked a good balance of books that do get a little challenging, but also books that are a lot of fun to read,” Schiavone said. Snow White by Matt Phelan and A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel by Hope Larson are two graphic novels on the book list this year.
“We got some picture books; we got some graphic novels; we got full-length novels that deal with difficult subjects,” Schiavone said. “We feel that kids should be challenged.”
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, recommended for ages 14 and above, is an award-winning novel about a girl who lives in two worlds — an impoverished black neighborhood and the extravagant suburban prep school she attends.
“We are blessed to live in a generation where we have authors that aren’t afraid to write about difficult things, in accessible ways for kids,” Schiavone said. “I think that looking around at the state of our world right now, at the current events, in some ways, we’d be remiss if we didn’t have difficult topics. We are doing kids a disservice if we are overlooking the fact that some of issues that books deal with are actually happening in the world.”
This summer, the CLSC Young Readers will have activities every Wednesday except for Week Two, in which the activity will be on a different weekday. The locations of the activities also vary.
Unlike previous years, the activities will generally occur at 12:30 p.m., as opposed to later in the afternoon as in previous years.