Why I Need YA Lit


Do you remember the books you read in High School English? For some, the memory is foggy (“I don’t remember much about To Kill a Mockingbird, except that it wasn’t about birds.”), and other books are remembered with a groan (“My teacher was obsessed with Hester Prynn. I’m pretty sure there was some sort of creepy literary crush happening there.”). There are a lucky few, however, who not only remember a book they read, but remember how it impacted them. These are the lucky ones, with teachers who were not only passionate and capable, but who also knew how to choose books that would resonate with their students.

Borah Coburn hopes to be one of those teachers. Currently, Coburn is working on her Masters in Adolescent English Education, and believes YA lit belongs in the educational literary canon. As part of her Masters program, Coburn had to create a defense for the use of YA lit in the classroom. To her surprise, however, she was approached by other teacher candidates, teachers, and even students who had what she calls “‘intellectual superiority’ of the Western Literary Canon, and really look down at their noses at the idea of using other literature in the classroom.”

“That quiet, casual, “common sense” backlash really inspired me to go beyond the class assignment,” Coburn says. Her solution was to start a Tumblr called Why I Need YA Lit. “I was already on Tumblr, and I wanted to take it to the people. I wanted teenagers, librarians, other teachers, authors, anyone and everyone to be able to [help]create this repository of voices in favor of YA lit [in the classroom]. I wanted this blog to be able to get a little personal about why YA lit was important for people, and why they want and/or need it in their lives.”

The premise behind Why I Need YA Lit is simple: anyone can submit stories, examples, memes, quotes, and memories of why books categorized as YA are important to them. Coburn hopes that the blog will not only serve to ignite conversation in the community of YA lovers, but will also act as an active defense against banning books.

“The ultimate idea, for me, was that if people submitted their reasons for needing YA Lit, then if (read: when) it’s challenged, or looked down on as a genre, [people]would have a place to go [and say], ‘No. Look at these people. These are real people who care about this genre, and to whom this genre is important…You need to take that into consideration.’”

Coburn’s blog also offers support for teachers who are dealing with having their curriculum challenged. The “Defending YA Lit” tab on the blog offers thoughtful arguments on why YA should be included in curriculum, citing the important issues YA often highlights, and the educational benefits of utilizing books that students enjoy reading.

The movement is still new, and though Coburn has received some good submissions, she’s hoping more people will get involved. Coburn doesn’t necessarily need long statements from people. “I’m trying to get better at letting people know that I’m looking for a sentence, a haiku, a photo—literally anything of any length that expresses some part of why they need YA lit.” She would especially love the support of YA authors. “[T]hat would be totally delightful,” she says. “Authors: YOU ARE WELCOME AT ANY TIME!”

So why do you need YA lit? Share in the comments below and visit Why I Need YA Lit to share your story.

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About Author

Lindsay Lackey

Lindsay spends her days as a freelance writer and editor, who specializes in YA, children’s and middle grade fiction. When she’s not writing, she’s either eavesdropping on the conversations had in bookstores, or indulging her shameless addiction to Twitter.


  1. Elizabeth Coble on

    Wow! “Why I need YA lit.” As a middle school librarian, I first need YA lit to fill the shelves of my school library! To reach my students. To help them know they are not alone. To help them see that there are places that and people who are all over their world and all worth knowing. For me, I need YA lit because I can use it to find a way into my students’ world. YA lit gives us a common language to use to communicate across the age, economic, gender snd cultural gaps that exist between us. And I have to say that I need it because I enjoy it!

  2. Kayla Elizabeth on

    YA literature, for me, was so important as I was growing up as a pre-teen and teenage and still today at 25 years old. The YA literature that I read had such an impact on me and during some really tough times when I was alone, I found that I really wasn’t alone- I had stories and characters to remind me of that.

    I wish as I was growing up there had been YA literature within my classes. I think it is very important to have the already required reading, but I think that needs to be expanded upon to YA because there are some who just do not relate to some of the books that are required, which is okay! But those students (who I was absolutely one of) need something to relate to, which I think YA can give.

    There should be a balance with school reading, which means YA should be included. I know I would have been much more receptive to my class readings if there had been some YA integrated in.

    It saddens me that there are so many school officials, including teachers, who find the idea of including YA in the classrooms absurd. A personal story of mine: when I was in 11th grade, I was required to write a book report on a book of my choosing. I can’t recall the book I wanted to do the report on, but I can say that it was a YA book. When the teacher was approving the books, she looked at my book and stated it was unacceptable and I needed something more “challenging.” At that moment, I started to second guess myself. Was something wrong with me because I liked YA and wasn’t (at the time) necessarily into classics or Shakespeare or something along those lines? I was very lucky and managed to move on from that situation, but I can only imagine the amount of kids who have had a similar experience and lost their interest/love for reading because of it.

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