As an adult, I might read a review of a book or hear about it from a friend. It sounds good, so I buy it or check it out of my local library. I also read all kinds of blogs with thoughts straight from the author’s head and heart—no editor at all.
But most kids don't have access to any book they want. There are gatekeepers between them and the books they read. Lots of them. And as passionate and well-intentioned as those gatekeepers are, their own ideas and biases can prevent some children from finding the kinds of books that will help them develop into life-long readers. Gatekeepers vote with their wallets. The books they buy affects not only what titles end up in a child’s hands but also what books are published in the future.
I worry that the collective biases of the kidlit gatekeepers are weighted in a particular direction.
Think about it. Most editors and children's librarians and literacy educators are naturally drawn to stories and storytelling. They're what I call narrative thinkers.
But there is a whole different way of interacting with and experiencing the world. Analytical thinkers are straight-line thinkers—scientists, engineers, mathematicians, computer programmers, accountants, plumbers, electricians, carpenters. Logic, not emotion, rules in the land of the analytical.
Research shows that these kids aren’t drawn to story in the same way that narrative-thinking kids (and adults) are. They don’t crave an emotional connection with the main character in a novel or a central figure in a picture book biography. They want the data, and then they will interpret it for themselves. They appreciate books with elements like patterning, analogies, metaphors, and calculations.
I strongly believe that analytical thinkers are currently being underserved by the children's literature and literacy education communities. We need to honor them by:
—appreciating the value of existing books that meet the needs of these students
—purchasing more books that will appeal to them (even if they don’t appeal to us)
Caswell, Linda J. and Nell K. Duke. “Non-Narrative as a Catalyst for Literacy Development.” Language Arts, 1998, p. 108-117.
Updated in January 2016 to replace the outmoded terms left-brain and right-brain thinkers with narrative and analytical thinkers, which I now prefer.
Updated January 2018 to add references.