(I posted this on the Class of 2k11 blog today, but also wanted to post it here in case anyone doesn’t follow over there. Some things are worth repeating)
As a writer and an author, I’ve often wondered how teens pick the books they read. And why. And where. I figured the best way to get answers was to go to the source. So I did. I enlisted the help of Sarah Andersen, a high school English teacher and huge supporter of YA literature. Mrs. Andersen also runs a blog called YA LOVE at www.addicted2reading.wordpress.com. Follow her there. I do!!
Sarah shared these 7 questions with her students and below are the results. She polled 50 freshman, as well as 29 students in her Young Adult Literature class. Unless otherwise shown, the class responses are combined, and included are a few of their comments.
1. What type of stories do you most like to read?
(NOTE: I provided this list of categories and some students marked more than just one category.)
Science Fiction 10%
“I’ll read almost anything, but my favorite genre is nonfiction and historical fiction,” –Frank
“I like to read stories about love, drugs, and basically just overcoming life challenges,” –Melina
“I like to read realistic YA books with maybe a death or body problems,” –Alex
“Just about anything as long as the characters are fully developed beyond just one aspect. NO VAMPIRE STORIES!!!” –Seth
2. How do you find out about the books you end up reading?
Most common answers:
3. Looking around at a bookstore or library
“I usually just hear about them from friends, but sometimes I’ll look them up at the library,” –Adam
“I find out about them from my teacher,” – Carmara
“I notice what other people read,” – Ian
“By looking around at covers. Most likely at stores,” –Kami
3. When you’re browsing for books, which of these do you rely on most to help you choose?
a. Cover: 53%
b. Story description/excerpt on the back cover: 62%
c. Blurbs: 10%
“I always find myself picking up books because the title or cover looks good, but before reading I have to be interested in the back description,” –Adam
“The cover makes a big difference to me because it can tell the theme and the time range it was written in,” –Rachel
“I usually rely on blurbs that authors say about the books. If I don’t see a blurb then it’s probably not a very good book,” –Valerie
4. Have you ever searched for a favorite author online?
Freshman class (50 students):
YES: 8 students 16%
NO: 42 students 84%
“Yes, I just typed in their name and checked out all of their books,” –Sarah
“I have Googled one or two to find out what other books the author has written,” –Devon
“Yes, If I like a particular book or series I search to find other books by that author or similar books,” –Trey
YA Lit class (29 students)
YES: 16 students 55%
NO: 13 students 45%
“I’ve searched for them to read their biography,” –Tory
“Yes, to see what new books he has,” –Ashley M
“I usually search on Amazon or any book stores online. Many different people comment and you can also read about the book,” –Kathlyn
5. Do you follow author blogs, or blogs about books?
For both classes this was an overwhelming NO.
“I have read a blog before, but I don’t follow it every day,” –Frank
“Not usually, but after seeing how many there are, I might start now,” –Rachel
“No, but I would like to start,” –Allison
“I don’t follow any blogs. I used to when I was reading Twilight, but it seemed to get old,” –Alex
6. How much of a book do you read before you decide whether to finish it?
“About a chapter or two,” –Ashley M
“I can’t not finish a book. If I start it I have to finish it,” –Melina
“I always finish a book,” –Brittany
“The first paragraph,” –Hanna
“I read maybe the first page and if I don’t like the beginning, then I know I’m not going to like the rest of the book, so why bother finishing it?” –Sam L
“I read at least 2 chapters before I decide to put down a book, but it doesn’t happen often,” –Alex
“I don’t normally stop in the middle, sometimes it takes a while to figure it out,” –Sam
“At least about ¼ of it,” –Darynn
“If it doesn’t interest me in the first chapter or two I stop reading it,” –Tori
“I read until I can’t make myself read anymore,” –Sara
“The first chapter or the first few pages,” –Audrey
“Maybe 20 pages,” –Trenton
“First few chapters, but I usually finish every book I start,” –Sarah
“I base it on how it starts off and the first chapter,” –Cerrah
“I usually try to finish a book whether I like it or not,” –Lori
“I read 1 or 2 chapters before I decide,” –Kristen
7. Is there anything you’ve read in YA books that makes you feel uncomfortable?
“Yes, in a certain book sexual things happened. Not a big deal, but it was not so good…” –Audrey
“Not really. It happens in life whatever it is,” –Cerrah
“When books go very into detail about harmful drugs,” –Erika
“No, not usually. Everything I read in books I hear about in school anyway,” –Courtney
“I like reading books that some people think are inappropriate,” –Adam
“No, I like reading a variety of situations and types of books. So it’s just something new, not uncomfortable,” – Sam
“Reading about scenarios that I’ve been through can make me uncomfortable, but I like to read how other people deal with them,” –Sami
“Some scenes with sexual content make me feel uncomfortable at times, but if it serves the story’s plot then I’m okay with the content,” –Rachel
“No, I read mature romance novels,” –Ashley R
So there you have it. Thanks again to Mrs. Andersen and her students for their input!!
And now, I put the final question to all of you: What did you think–any surprises?