While many adults may feel that finding teenagers who read is a task as elusive as finding Bigfoot or a Yetti, it turns out that a greater percentage of today’s technology generation are regular readers than you might think!
Despite the Internet, video games and technological pastimes, teens are still reading. In fact, from 1999 to 2005, teen book sales increased 23 percent, said Albert Greco, a Fordham University marketing professor and publishing expert. The average Barnes & Noble Booksellers, he said, has 74 shelves dedicated to young adult literature. Religion, meanwhile, averages 110 shelves. “It’s growing and will continue to grow for the foreseeable future,” he said.
One reason for the increase in teen readers is that the themes of today’s YA lit mirror changes in our society. With the emergence of cable TV, children are exposed to adult topics at an earlier age. “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City” re-runs play on networks such as TBS, and today’s PG-13 movies may have been rated R in the past. “This genre has had a significant change. The themes and the characters are far more mature than Sweet Valley friends,” Greco said, referring to a book series by author Francine Pascal. “Kids tend to grow up faster, and the publishers saw this and put the product out.”
Teens are also part of a generation dubbed the “millennials,” a term for those ages 10 to 22. Next to the baby boomers, Greco explained, millennials are the second-largest cohort in the United States. They spend $170 billion annually, and not on mundane adult items like mortgages and medicine. Their money goes toward music and movies and books.
James Blasingame, an Arizona State University professor who edits the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents Review, said topics once considered taboo — pregnancy, AIDS and violence — are now found in teen books. “There’s something for everyone now,” he said. “A lot of [young adult] authors said, ‘When I was a teen, the book I needed was not there, so I wrote it.’ ”
For instance, there’s the Bluford series about students in a fictional, inner-city high school named for the first black astronaut. There’s “Speak” by Laurie Hales Anderson — about a ninth-grade girl who was raped — that is used by some schools in curricula. Jack Gantos authored “Joey Pigza Loses Control,” in which the protagonist has attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. These aren’t “Harry Potter” readers, Blasingame concludes. “Kids want books that reflect their real lives,” he said. “It’s OK to write about kids who have problems.”
The practice, said Ferrum College English professor Lana Whited, is called bibliotherapy — working through problems using literature. One reason she said the “Harry Potter” series is so popular is because the main character is very much a real boy. Flying and magic aside, Harry deals with bullies and girls and feuding friends. “He fits into the pattern of a hero, despite the fact he’s in an underdog situation,” she said. “I think that’s everybody’s fantasy. I think that’s what adolescent angst is about.”
While teens have electronic options, Blasingame thinks technology has brought teens closer to books. They can order literature online at Borders or Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com. A recent search for “Harry Potter” on Amazon turned up more than 5,377 reader reviews, many written by youths. Authors now create MySpace pages for themselves and their books. Stephanie Meyer, who penned the vampire-themed “Twilight” series, encourages fans to e-mail her Web site, suggesting which actors should play certain characters when the books become movies. Author PJ Haarsma even created a game that can be played online for free. Those who read his series “The Softwire: Virus on Orbis,” get tips on mastering the game. Blasingame predicts the connection between the book and the game will change attitudes about reading. “I think the Internet is enhancing reading,” he said.
More public and school libraries are sponsoring book clubs as well as other teen-themed reading programs to help teens find books they like in addition to providing a safe and fun social outlet.
Did you know….
- A poll of 1,200 12- to 18-year-olds done this year for the American Library Association found that 31 percent visit the public library more than 10 times a year, and 70 percent use their school library more than once a month.
- Of those who regularly use libraries, 78 percent indicated they borrowed books or other materials for personal use; 60 percent said they did so from school libraries.
- According to the Public Library Data Service Statistical Report, nearly 90 percent of public libraries surveyed offer young adult programs, with more than half — 51.9 percent — employing at least one full-time worker dedicated to young adult programs and services. In 1995, just 11 percent of libraries had employees dedicated to youth services.
If you consider yourself a “non-reader”, think about attending one of the CRHS Blatant Bibliophile Reading Club meetings or attending one of the Teen Reading events through the Sequoyah Regional Library System—we here at The Unquiet Library think you will find yourself pleasantly surprised at the variety and relevance of books available to you as a teen reader!
Source: Roanoake Times