I was going to talk about something completely different today, but a little note in something I was reading caught my eye, suggesting that youngsters aged thirteen and fourteen prefer not to read YA books designed for their age group, but prefer, instead, to stick to simpler stories meant for a younger age. The example used was Roald Dahl’s ‘The Twits’.
Of course, as a writer and a teen myself, I was, at first, shocked, then thrown into disbelief. It’s a worrying thought that children are becoming less involved with reading and writing – this Telegraph internet article states that 54% of children in a survey questioned said they preferred watching TV to reading. And, naturally, this must lead to poor comprehensive skills.
It’s true that I, along with other teens I know, sometimes need a break from lengthy, factual or complex books to read something below our level that we probably shouldn’t. Going back to the above example, I might even read a simple Roald Dahl once in a while to remind myself of the plot, or if I got a ‘craving’ for a certain type of book like that.
For years, I wanted to follow the plots of series even when I technically grew out of them. On a slightly more advanced level, books like those Cassandra Clare has written. Whilst I’ve never read them myself, I have a friend at a top university who still reads them from time to time because she can.
It happens. We can’t stop teenagers from reading something that they enjoy. And, yes, I do mean this the other way, too. When one delves into the writing community, one finds that the tastes of writers are often more advanced than non-writers. Whilst a 13-year-old friend of mine has read very few classical novels, she has read the entire Shades of Grey trilogy. Please take a moment to despair with me.
On the other hand, the research suggests that the reasons behind teens’ choices are less to do with personal preference and more to do with reading ability. Of course, one can’t enjoy a book that one has trouble understanding. It is this fact which causes me the most anxiety in relation to our society nowadays.
I am torn whether to believe this is really happening to the next generation or not. I can understand how the internet, especially time-wasting, often-poor-quality sites like Facebook and Tumblr, causes youngsters to disregard literature, especially if it is too long for them to read quickly – but are we really learning (or ‘being conditioned into’ to use the psychological term) a lifestyle of laziness and ill-educated manners?
On the other hand, I believe that the facts focus on the wrong sample of teenagers in the UK. I cannot say how widespread or from where they got their information from, but I can say that many of the teenagers I know do not conform to this statistic in the same way. (Then again, I may myself be providing a biased sample of lower-middle class private-educated thirteen to nineteen year olds).
I’m not a big fan of teen/YA books, but at least if I read, I go for something beyond my settled skills. Putting my own bias to one side even when I say this, I have to say that nearly all the teenagers I know are good readers, even if they are not avid. Obviously, I surround myself with many writer-teens, who, like myself, are actually beginning to write in the NA, nineteen to thirty category. Main protagonist’s age aside, I am assuming that they are using more complex storylines, theories (at one point, one of my protagonists has an argument whether his actions were his own fault or whether he was always going to do them regardless) and vocabulary. NA books contain more than just scenes that one couldn’t put in a teen book.
So. Are teen books becoming less popular for teens?
1) My Word of the Week is DEFENESTRATE. Just because I’m no longer doing the segment doesn’t mean I don’t still have words that demand their presence in my mind throughout the week. So, defenestrate: doesn’t that sound so funny? Meaning ‘to throw out or through the window’ (!), it comes from the Latin de (down from) fenestra (window).
2) As I revise for my exams, I intend to take some time away from writing the usual blog posts. But do not despair! If things go to plan, I’ll be creating essays (most Psychology) on the basic facts that I am learning, like repetition in lead for an encoding of ideas.