Teenagers Reading

research for my PhD thesis

Archive for the ‘focus groups’ Category

I can get that from the library!?

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Justine Larbalestier blogged about borrowing books from libraries and how authors benefit from this.

On the big scale, borrowing books is good because that’s what keeps libraries alive: the more people who borrow books from libraries the more likely they are to be funded. And the more libraries there are the more people who are reading.

love is hell - surely not Scott Westerfeld had blogged about Love is Hell [1], which includes stories by him, Justine and others (eg. Gabrielle Zevin a remarkable writer, who loves her pup almost as much as i love mine). One of Scott’s loyal Westerfeldians lamented she would have to wait months before she could find it at a used book store. Justine suggested:

Maybe you could get your local library to order it in?

This idea is surprising to many teenagers, but every teen librarian grapples with how to entice teenagers into their library. I’ve written a literature review on the topic [2]. (Amira-la does know how rocking libraries are and like me is waiting (im)patiently for Love is Hell to arrive on a library shelf, altho our respective libraries are half a world from each other.)

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Written by ClareSnow

3 December 2008 at 2:20 pm

Word and Image

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I previously blogged about whether reading a graphic novel is equivalent to reading a conventional book. Some of the teenagers I talked to thought this wasn’t the case, but most of the librarians agreed it was – striving through their work to ensure young people encountered a variety of genres and formats in their reading, without making judgements on supposed “quality.”

misc Pilgrim ?! by Bryan Lee O'Malley I asked every group of teenagers what they would think if graphic novels were assigned as an English class text. Some teenagers thought this would be an “easy” option and it was the visual component which led to their demotion of the format as a “legitimate” text. These teenagers also happened to be those who had limited experience of the format. (Names have been changed to ensure confidentiality.)

Fourteen year old Anna believed,

People would choose the graphic novel without like thinking about it cause they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, it’s just a comic, it’ll be easy.’ But they won’t like think about like what you have to do. And they’ll just be like, ‘Oh it’s a change. And do that.’

Marty (age 14) said, “They’re not really books” and Jeremy (age 14) agreed, conjecturing that studying a graphic novel would compare unfavourably to a conventional book because it could not be studied it in depth.

That’s why we read more thorough books like The Red Cardigan [1] and stuff.

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Written by ClareSnow

24 November 2008 at 2:17 pm

Are you sure you don’t like graphic novels?

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When I held focus groups with high school students for my PhD research some of the things they said were very funny – David being a case in point, although it was more what he did that entertained us. (Names have been changed to ensure confidentiality.)

Stormbreaker David (age 15) was an avid reader, but felt graphic novels were “too short, too simple,” preferring “more complicated” conventional books, which were “better.” At one point David’s classmate Mia (who was passionate about manga) felt his dislike needed reassessment. Her comment was inaudible but David reminded her that he was allowed a contrasting opinion. David had read Stormbreaker: the graphic novel (2006) by Anthony Horowitz, Antony Johnston, Kanako and Yuzuru, so felt he was informed on the issue. Despite his negative views, during the focus group he began reading Courtney Crumrin in the Twilight Kingdom (2004) by Ted Naifeh.

Researcher: Do you think you’d try reading any of them, these, after seeing them today? You seem interested in it.
David: Graphic novels? I still think they’re no better than picture books.
Researcher: Yeah? You’re just reading it because it’s there in front of you?
David: Uhmm.
All: [laughter]

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Written by ClareSnow

11 November 2008 at 5:22 pm

Teenagers’ Reality

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In two and a half weeks ALIA and SLA are holding a Seminar Series for Information Professionals, Reality 2.0, with sessions in Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne. Stephen Abram, the current President of SLA, is the keynote speaker at all three sessions, with various local speakers at each session.

What are some of the strategies information professionals need in the changing information world? Stephen will talk about the real needs of real people living the Web 2.0 experience and information and knowledge economy. How can we use Web 2.0 tools to terra-form the living, breathing worlds we inhabit? What are some practical tools we can use? How can professional associations such as SLA and ALIA help?

I wanted to hear Stephen Abram speak, but my research funds will only cover conference expenses if I present a paper. After reading the above and wondering exactly how one “terra-forms the living,” I submitted an abstract, on the off chance an event sponsored by SLA would want to hear about teenagers. Despite living in Perth, thus not being a Brisbane local* my abstract was accepted. I’ll be giving a paper at the Brisbane session on Thursday 11 September 2008. I’ll talk about what the teenagers in my focus groups had to say about Web 2.0, although it’s not a term teenagers mention much, if ever!? It’s all just:

Go on MySpace
Chat to friends on MSN
Or just plain: Google it

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Written by ClareSnow

25 August 2008 at 11:16 am

Teenagers talking about reading and libraries

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Last year I presented a paper at RAILS 4: Research Applications in Information and Library Studies in Melbourne. My peer-reviewed paper has been published in the June 2008 issue of Australian Academic and Research Libraries. I discussed some preliminary results of my focus groups with teenagers. “Teenagers talking about reading and libraries” is available from here or espace@Curtin.


Snowball, Clare (2008) “Teenagers talking about reading and librariesAustralian Academic and Research Libraries vol. 39, no. 2, pp. 106-118.


Past research has shown teenagers to be reluctant to read and less likely to visit libraries than younger children. These conclusions are debated and further investigation is needed. Difficulties abound in researching teenagers’ opinions. Teenagers can be reluctant to participate in activities and peer support is often very important in determining their willingness to take part. Large-scale surveys of hundreds of student participants do not allow in-depth discussion of opinions and attitudes. Focus groups were conducted with metropolitan Perth high school students to investigate teenagers’ thoughts on reading and libraries. Although some teenagers were enamoured of reading and libraries, others were more scathing but still found ways to take part in literacy activities and acquire the information they needed to negotiate their world.

Written by ClareSnow

17 June 2008 at 4:05 pm

Comparing two teenagers’ reading habits

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Last week I gave a presentation to fellow research students in the Department of Media and Information at Curtin University. This is the paper of my presentation.

As a part of my research I conducted focus groups with high school students. I talked to about 40 students, but I will concentrate on two students here, Leah and Adam. All students’ names have been changed to ensure confidentiality. Leah was in Year 9 and 14 years old. Adam was in Year 10 and 16 years old.

Leah proudly declared she had never read a book. This was later contradicted when she mentioned the times she found books and other reading materials she had enjoyed. Adam had not always been an avid reader, but he was now and happily discussed what he liked about reading. The two were very different and contradict the stereotypes found in the literature of girls who read [1] and enjoy fiction and boys who don’t read so much but when they do, often enjoy non-fiction [2,3]. They show the diversity that is present among teenagers [4] (as in any group) and the difficulty in making generalisations.
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Written by ClareSnow

11 May 2008 at 7:45 pm


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I’ve finalised my paper from the RAILS 4 seminar, ready for publication. It needs to go through peer-review, but will be published in Australian Academic and Research Libraries in June 2008.

Last year I wrote a literature review about teenagers in libraries for Library Review. It’s been published in the January 2008 issue. I had hoped it would be available by now, but the editor has told me it will be in the next week or so. When I receive a copy I will put it in the Curtin Institutional Repository, so it will be available online.


Snowball, C. (2008) “Enticing teenagers into the library” Library Review, vol.57, no.1.

Written by ClareSnow

27 February 2008 at 4:39 pm

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