From Inspiring People to Persistent Challenges, SLJ’s Most Popular Posts of 2019

From the best in books for children and teens to stirring stories of inspiring individuals,  these were the most viewed stories on SLJ.

Books, the best ones for children and teens as determined by SLJ reviews editors, comprise the most anticipated posts. No surprise there, neither was the pointed interest this year in certain categories of publishing; of SLJ’s “bests,” picture books and YA ranked among our most viewed content of 2019. 

But middle grade drew plenty of buzz, sparked by our November cover story by SLJ senior editor Katy Hershberger. The need to serve tween readers, as defined in the feature, reverberated in feedback to the piece, which resounded across our social channels.

Meanwhile, diverse books for children; assigned booklists, which can squelch the desire the read at all; and efforts to pull books deemed inappropriate from school shelves are consistent challenges for SLJ’s readership. Interestingly, this year marks the first time our long-running censorship column by Pat Scales, has been among the most read posts, which also feature two articles that concern assigned reading lists. 

Sarah Park Dahlen, an associate professor of MLIS at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN, examined the state of diverse books, and the results are mixed. 

In a discordant year, socially and politically, readers were drawn to stories about individuals, one a U.S. Congressman, Elijah Cummings, the other, a Missouri school librarian, Michelle Oliver. Both connected emotionally with readers.

Following are the most-viewed posts on SLJ:

1. “The People Who Helped Me the Most Were the Librarians” — Rep. Elijah Cummings

Speaking about the librarians who stayed past their regular hours at the Enoch Pratt Free Library to help him with schoolwork, the longtime Baltimore congressman got emotional. “There are a lot of good people who really care,” he said. 

2. An Updated Look at Diversity in Children's Books  

Using numbers from the Cooperative Children's Book Center, this infographic—updated from 2015—illustrates representation in children's literature. The number of diverse books may have gone up, but that doesn't necessarily indicate the accuracy and quality of titles.

3. Librarian’s Devastating Loss Provides Mental Health Lens for Teaching "Romeo and Juliet"

After her son died by suicide in April, Michelle Oliver collaborated with an English teacher to look at Shakespeare's famous "love story" in a new way and to teach her students about suicide awareness.

4. If Kids Can’t Read What They Want in the Summer, When Can They? | Opinion

Assigned summer reading lists can seriously hinder kids’ long-term interest in reading. Donalyn Miller makes the case for giving children agency to choose what they read.

5. Knuffle Bunny Sculpture Unveiled in Brooklyn

The beloved Mo Willems character is captured in bronze at the Park Slope Public Library in New York City. Readers were delighted at the news, with several planning a trip to Brooklyn to visit Knuffle Bunny in person.

6. Best Picture Books 2019 | SLJ Best Books

Twenty-one titles made SLJ's list of the best picture books published in 2019. “I want them ALL for my school library!,” Kathy Schoenberger Malpass commented on Facebook.

7. Best Young Adult Books 2019 | SLJ Best Books

Our editors named 17 titles as the most distinguished young adult books published in 2019.

Sarah Menesale Downs commented: “Thanks for the great book suggestions SLJ, but notice your lists also reinforce last month’s article [number 12 on this most popular posts list] about no middle school books?! The YA list is majority grade 9 and up and the middle grade list skews young. The predicament is real!”

8. Florida DOE Posts Dated, Mostly White Booklist. Twitter Reacts.

A back-to-school reading list by the Florida Department of Education drew sharp criticism for its lack of diverse books, predominance of old titles, and overall lack of relevance to students. Deanna Evans was among many annoyed readers. “Add this to the reasons I'm so grateful to be a librarian and no longer a classroom teacher for the DOE,” she commented.

9. A Universe of Podcasts: A Summer Listening Guide for Elementary, Middle, and High School Students

New research offers compelling evidence that suggests we should make more use of podcasts, and a podcast search engine makes it easy. Readers dug in to three curated lists of audio offerings.

10. A Parent Says No to 'Malala' | Scales on Censorship

Readers asked, Pat Scales answered, regarding challenging reading choices, a library clerk who passed judgment on reading selections, and a panel on gun violence.

11. Best Tabletop Games for the Library

A game-loving librarian, Cindy Shutts, offered suggestions to raise the level of your collection. With recommended games for elementary, tweens, and teens, from Candy Land and Uno to Exploding Kittens and Sushi Go.

12. Middle Grade Is too Young, YA too Old. Where Are the Just-Right Books for Tweens? 

Librarians and publishers address a demand for more tween-centric reads. "Such an important conversation #WhenMiddleGradeIsNotMiddleSchool," tweeted Erin Dealey.  



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Kathy Ishizuka

Kathy Ishizuka is editor in chief of School Library Journal.

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