For much of my career I’ve had the distinct honor to write in a genre, or style, I’m incredibly proud of. That genre is “high/low”. If you’re a children’s or young adult librarian you know all about high/low books. If you’re a teacher, or a reading specialist, you’ve probably heard of it, too. For the rest of you, it’s likely a term you’re unfamiliar with.
Basically, high/low stands for “high interest, low reading level.” These are the books that are geared for a certain group of young people – here comes another industry term – the reluctant readers. High/low aims to provide books for reluctant, or struggling, readers, those children and young adults who have rarely connected with books, who are often reading below grade level, and who, in many cases, have issues in their lives that have held them back and have caused them to have trouble with school in general. These are my peeps. I’ve written sports books like the Jake Maddox stories for these readers. I’ve written scary stories like The Curse of Raven Lake for them. And I’ve written several graphic novels for these kids, a style of books that seems to do particularly well at resonating with reluctant readers.
I can’t tell you how often I’ve struggled, as a librarian and teacher, to place the right book in the right reader’s hands. Connecting books with kids can be a challenge, an especially difficult challenge for those girls and boys who just have not learned to love to read. This is where high/low books can be a savior, both for a librarian and for a reader. These books are typically shorter than other novels aimed for readers of the same age. And they often revolve around topics of special interest to kids who haven’t connected to the academic world of their peers. These topics include things like sports, suspense and true-to-life relationships.
About writing high/low books…here’s the best part. I cannot count how many times librarians and teachers have thanked me for writing the kinds of books I write. They have seen these books become loved and devoured by their students, frequently students who receive special education or for whom English is their second language. Me? I thank the publishers who have given me the opportunity to write in this important genre. These publishers are Capstone, for whom I’ve written many books, and now Lerner who has graciously brought me on board to write books for them, the first of which is a young adult novel called Blood Moon which will come out this winter.
My belief is all of us can, and should, love to read. This is true for adults and for young readers. It’s simply a matter of finding the right book, the book that connects and speaks to the right reader. I’ll end this post this way. If you know a young reluctant reader, and you want them to learn to love books as much as you, the next time you go to the library or the bookstore, ask the person there about high/low books. They’ll know what you’re talking about and they’ll be sure to find that special, amazing book the young person in your life will treasure.