Canadian Young People and their Reading Worlds: Conditions of Literature in Contemporary Canada

  • Margaret Mackey University of Winnipeg


In lieu of an abstract, here is an excerpt of this article: Consider these observations on the current literary scene for young Canadians: • Writers, illustrators and publishers produce wonderful books for children and adolescents. • Contemporary young people achieve basic literacy and also develop sophisticated literary understanding through their exposure to clever, appealing, and subtle literature created just for them. • The output of Canadian children’s publishing is extensive and varied when compared to what was available for children of a couple of generations ago. • Those who work with children and their literature have a job that is both significant and special. I actually believe all the statements in this list. But this rosy account of affairs is also very partial. As Peter Hunt puts it, “children’s books may look sweet and innocent, but they cannot be—and nor can their critics” (154). The world of children’s literature cannot be sealed off in a bubble; it exists in a context of real children and their institutions (family, school, library—which are not emotionally, pedagogically, or financially equal), of publishers and booksellers driven by commercial considerations, of rapid cultural and technological change that affects children as much as or more than older citizens. I am an academic working in the area of literature for young people. Although I am very interested in the literary qualities of texts for youth, I also firmly believe that those who work with children’s literature should make a point of reading the business news. Market conditions, institutional pressures, technological developments—all impinge on how literature is created, distributed, and presented to young people.