iLoveMG by Trevor Ingerson
Disclaimer: I love middle grade. That wasn’t always the case. When I was in 5th grade I would have been recognized as a reluctant reader. I loved reading Goosebumps and because I was super into sports I devoured all the Matt Christopher books I could get my hands on. I was exposed to other books as well through read-alouds (I still remember my teacher reading WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS and trying not to sob as she got closer and closer to the end). But really, outside of R.L. Stine and Matt Christopher, I had no idea reading could be for pleasure or entertainment. Assigned homework reading was another way I experienced great books, but because I thought reading was like math, a tactile skill I would just need to learn to get through daily life as an adult, I couldn’t appreciate it at the time. I also had no idea I was using reading as a vehicle for escape and comfort during a turbulent time. Like many middle graders, my friend group was beginning to change. The switch from elementary to middle school was something I had never experienced, along with that awkward in between stage of kid and not yet teenager. It’s a lot to go through when you’re 11 or 12. On top of that my parents were going through a divorce. Outside of sports, even though I didn’t realize it at the time, middle grade was my escape.
My reading habits were basically the same through high school, and if I’m being honest, probably only included reading books if they were assigned. It wasn’t until I reached college that I began to understand that reading could not only be for entertainment or pleasure, as well as escape, but analyzing and decoding a novel was something that I loved doing and eventually lead me to my current job in publishing. Which also lead me to a realization that many of you reading this blog already know: the framework and foundation for my career was set when I was in those middle grades, reading Newbery medalists and listening to my teachers read aloud. I would not be the reader I am today without those experiences. Granted, I’ve had some luck and privilege that not every student will get. But those middle grade years can shape a young reader’s life.
I am a school and library marketer at Workman, meaning I market books to teachers and librarians. Year after year, I’ve seen the impact a teacher or librarian can have by getting a middle grade book into the hands of their students. Watching this happen lead me to starting a new initiative called iLoveMG (iLove Middle Grade). It’s a celebration of middle grade—all middle grade from all publishers. The initiative is focused on celebrating how awesome middle grade is with its true champions: teachers, librarians, and booksellers. We kicked it off at NCTE with tote bags, stickers, and a white board where teachers could share why they love middle grade (check out the storify to see some of the responses). We’ll be doing the same in Boston at ALA MW (stop by booth 1946 if you want a sweet iLoveMG tote), and we’ll be at upcoming teacher and librarian conferences. In addition to that we’ll be celebrating #ILoveMG on Twitter during the week of January 25th-29th with themed days and giveaways. We also launched a newsletter of sorts on Tinyletter.com where you can get awesome updates about all kinds of middle grade.
Middle grade can often get overlooked as a category on the whole. It encompasses such a large range of reading levels and readers; it can be hard to pin down. But that is why it’s also a category that has some of the best writing happening right now. That’s why I love it. That’s why at NCTE, I put on my white board that “I Love middle grade because it’s the punk of kid lit. It has few trends and helps shape young readers coming into their own.” That’s why I hope you join me in the celebration. Feel free to use the hashtag or the logo whenever you’re talking about middle grade on social media. Thank you, teachers, librarians, and booksellers for all you do to get these books into young reader’s hands.
Trevor Ingerson is the Head of Children’s Educational and Library Marketing for Workman Publishing Co. He loves to tweet (@tingerson) about books, sports, and bad puns.