The Value of Historical Fiction and Nonfiction to Young Adults
Why do Young Adults Like it?
Historical fiction serves to not only take readers back in time, but to take them on an adventure and show them that the good and bad elements of humanity are consistently repetitive throughout time. While the setting may be realistic, authors can craft incredibly rich and multi-faceted characters that young readers can connect with easily. They can intertwine the problems teens face today with those of the past, providing a link between the past and the present. Because of this, historical fiction is very appealing to many young adults.
A Year Down Yonder
Richard Peck does this exceedingly well in his book about Grandma Dowdel, A Year Down Yonder. Even though these stories are set in the Great Depression, the characters encounter problems that teens still face today. Peck’s ability to add humor throughout his stories, making teachers and teens laugh out loud, makes these stories even more appealing. Peck explains that authors like to write journey stories as the protagonists encounter new people and situations. He also likes to make his main characters different or unusual in some way, doing out-of-the-ordinary types of things.
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Who Likes Nonfiction?
Even though more young adults will choose fiction over nonfiction, boys in particular are interested in nonfiction material. They tend to like amazing facts, how-to books, and true survival stories. Nonfiction can be used effectively to enhance the school curriculum and to supplement what is being learned in school. Students find autobiographies about current celebrities and athletes very appealing. These types of books lend themselves to teaching research, citation, and copyright topics. More than anything though, I think nonfiction can be used to learn from the past in order to make the future better. The topics are endless; poverty, slavery, pollution, deforestation, human rights, animal rights and so many more. Gathering facts from nonfiction material can lead to persuasive writing pieces, debates and speeches, giving students an awareness of how knowledge relates to power.
A Final Note
Unlike historical nonfiction, historical fiction about war allows the reader to see inside the scenes, feeling what the characters are feeling and vicariously experiencing what they are experiencing. These main characters are often very young and possess characteristics that most young adults can relate to. Historical fiction provides variety and can take the reader anywhere.