Friday, November 12, 2010

Guest Post: Getting Teens Interested in Historical Fiction

Today's guest post comes from Jessica, who you can find on Twitter as @jessyabookobssd, or at her blog, I Read to Relax.  Enjoy!  --Melissa

Getting Teens Interested in Historical Fiction
As a Teen Librarian it is always a challenge to introduce new books to reluctant readers.  One genre that I always love to recommend is historical fiction.  Many teens, though, seem to want nothing to do with the ominous H.F…until they pick up that one special book, that is! But, how to get them there?  That is the real challenge.

Now, there are those teens that have been hooked on historical fiction since they picked up their first American Girl book. These teens come in and at the sight of one period costume on a book cover get a special gleam in their eye and their fingers become greedy. Most teens, though, seem to want that hot new contemporary realistic urban fiction or the awesomely romantic paranormal that just came out.  These are the teens that must be targeted to learn to love historical fiction!

Since a lot of these teens are not attracted by that gorgeous dress on the cover (think Godbersen’s Luxe series), I like to use programs to get these teens interested in the history and culture of the time.

Once they’re intrigued about the setting of the book, then they’ll start to say, “Oh, this is set in the Concentration Camps?” or “So, this was during the Prohibition Period?”  Those are the moments to connect the teen with the right historical fiction, and hopefully hook them into reading more…and more…and more!

So, what are some types of programs that can link into historical fiction?  There are lots!  I love to do crafts, so one of my favorites is creating Steampunk Jewelry.  I know that steampunk is not straight historical fiction, but I love it and it’s a fun place to start sometimes, so I’m including it here. 

All you need is some old clock parts, cogs, nuts, etc., and some simple chain or earring posts to put them on.  When you can explain what “steampunk” means and start to tell them about the Victorian era, you can then connect them to some of the steampunk books.

Steampunk books – Larklight series by Philip Reeve, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Another great craft that I’ve done is Egyptian Pharaoh Masks. While making these fun masks, you can explain about the Egyptian Pharaohs and their burial rites.  It’s also a great time to talk about mummification, hieroglyphics, and the Egyptian gods and goddesses.  Then, connect them with the books!

Ancient Egypt books – Sphinx’s Princess by Esther Friesner, The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan, For All Time by Caroline B. Cooney

For teens who may be more interested in fashion, you can host programs like “Dressing from Corset to Gloves: The Fashion, Life, and Etiquette of the Victorian and Edwardian Eras.” The Victorian Lady, Kandie Carle ( dresses in actual period costume for programs and breathes humor and life into the period.  Once teens have been hooked by the costumes, you can hook them into the books!

Victorian Period books – The Agency series by Y.S. Lee, Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle

Alongside fashion, you can discuss courting customs.  Bouquets.  The language of flowers.  You can have a “Tussie-Mussie” making program. Explain how each flower in the bunch means something.  Have the teens make their Mom a tussie-mussie for Mother’s Day or teach boys to make some for their girlfriends! You can also link this back to the secret coded languages that friends relied on in public – using fans, bouquets, and books to pass messages.

Books – Enola Holmes mysteries by Nancy Springer, Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount White

Some other historical fiction related program ideas might be Reader’s Theatre with fun costumes or Historical Vocabulary Balderdash! If you plan ahead, you can coordinate an entire historical fiction display with cool props to coincide with your program so that when the teens are done they will just happen to come across a whole lot of books from the same time period.  Yay!


Michelle Zink said...

Great post, Jessica! Even though my book is Gothic fantasy, I've received SO many comments of, "I don't usually like historical books, but I loved this one!"

It's a special challenge to get teens to open their minds to something unfamiliar. Thanks for the great tips!


Anonymous said...

That's a great post and I'll pass it along this week. Ms. Zink, I loved your Prophecy of Sisters. Getting the second book for Xmas.

Look at A Great and Terribly Beauty, and I have read where lots of new series are coming out that are historical.

These tips are perfect. I am going to try to think of more. Will stay in touch.

Again, great post! Thanks.

Jessica said...

Thanks Michelle! I love being able to hand out books like yours with a historical setting. Once you hook a teen, hopefully they just keep coming back for more!!

barbara stuber said...

I have been amazed that my historical novel, CROSSING THE TRACKS, has a readership of people in their 80-90's as well as teens. Learning how this wide range of readers see themselves in the characters is fascinating.