Take a moment to pause and flash back to your memories of middle school. What do you remember most? How did others treat you? Did you feel confident in your own skin?
For most, including myself, memories of those middle school years make us cringe. Either we went through an awkward stage, got stabbed in the back by friends, or felt as if we didn’t belong. But, why is middle school usually described this way?
Middle school often serves grades 6-8, students who are pre-teens moving out of elementary school who are slowly learning the ropes to someday move on to the treacherous territory that is high school. And, being that kids are navigating this awkward transition in school, where they feel everyone is watching and judging them, awkwardness sometimes adheres itself to these kids personally.
Middle schoolers are at a crossroads entertainment-wise once they reach this age bracket. They’re in between watching and reading content created for children, and content created with teens in mind. With any entertainment medium, it is increasingly difficult to find media that this age bracket will enjoy that remains age appropriate. This, my friend, is why it is vital that hope-inspiring and redemptive books reach middle grade shelves.
The Awkward Years
Middle schoolers are new to having to make their own decisions, and choosing to consume media that is too mature or too naive for their age can skew their development. For example, if a thirteen-year-old girl reads a mainstream upper-YA novel, she may be bombarded with innuendos, cussing, and a variety of other content that she might not be mature enough to process yet. Likewise, another thirteen-year-old boy may continue to only read books written for lower elementary school students, causing his reading and/or vocabulary levels to develop slower. For these reasons, we as authors need to create a happy medium to encourage preteens in their time of need by getting on their level.
How Do We Get on Their Level?
Someone once asked me how authors know how to write for younger demographics. My reply was simple: we just write for the kid we were at that age; we write the books we needed during that time of our lives.
For Speak Your Mind, I simply wrote the book that would have been a beacon of hope for the shy and socially anxious preteen I was back then. Content-wise, I knew that it needed to be mature enough to be relevant for a public school middle grade student, but also innocent enough as to not fill their minds with content my parents would not have approved of me consuming at that age.
Overall, I think we as writers often make writing for younger demographics, especially this semi-awkward age group, harder than it needs to be. Just write for your younger self, and magic will happen. ❤
Talk to Me, Arrowheads!
What is your favorite middle grade book, and how did it affect you as a middle schooler? Did you read the book when you were older instead, and do you think it would have made a positive impact on your younger self? Let me know in the comments!