Teenagers Reading

research for my PhD thesis

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The Future of Reading

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To continue on the theme of reading books, the March issue of Incite, the news magazine of ALIA, the professional association for librarians and other information professionals, had the theme “The Future of Reading.”

I wrote an article about what the teenagers I interviewed for my research thought about reading, seeing as they are our future. While I had some difficulty sticking to the word limit of 800, there’s a space at the end of the published article (for an ad they didn’t have a taker for) and I could have filled that space with more words, like quotes from the kids. My proof reader Gaby Haddow suggested I delete one quote to get closer to the word count but I could have put multitudes more in. eg.

That book was hell good.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne Despite my friend reading my article and telling me he’d just discovered teenagers didn’t read, one kid did say the above, I think about The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne (David Fickling Books, 2006). I agree with said kid’s opinion on that book. It was an assigned text for their Year 10 English class. There weren’t fun books like that when I was at school, but it wasn’t published back then. A number of the other assigned texts teenagers discussed were studied in my English classes 20 years ago. I understand some of them are classics, but The Cay by Theodore Taylor (Doubleday, 1969) is not a classic. Well, if it is, it’s one of the boring ones.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins My parents like to read what I’ve published, but I think they get a bit bored sometimes. My mum said this one was a lot easier to read because it didn’t have annoying references getting in the way (and I’m sure the length helped, shorter always being better).

All the authors in this issue had to say what they were reading. I was reading Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins and despite my article saying I was reading Catching the Fire, I know what the title is. Katniss started a fire, she didn’t catch one, and I highly recommend the story of her fire, but you should read bk1 first. I’m looking forward to bk3 Mockingjay, released the day before my b.day.


Snowball, Clare (2010) Teenagers: Our future readers Incite, 31(3), p.13.

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Written by ClareSnow

20 March 2010 at 10:10 am

The literature of comics

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She said it took different skills to interpret the interplay of words and pictures in graphic novels – skills that were important in today’s highly visual world.

“You’re actually reading the pictures at the same time that you’re reading the words, so if you’re not used to it that can be very difficult. It’s something you have to learn.”

The above is a quote from Perth’s daily newspaper The West Australian and it was supplied to reporter Bethany Hiatt during an interview with me :) Last week I was interviewed about graphic novels and my research by Education Editor Ms Hiatt. My brain is mush due to thesis, but I actually made some lucid comments that gave the impression my brain is not mush :P On Saturday the article was published [1]. Some of The West Australian’s articles are reprinted online, but comics just don’t cut it. You can only read it if you’re in Perth and you’re one of those people who read the paper. What newspapers already know (and are desperately grasping for ideas on how they can make money from the younger generation who don’t read papers) I have now worked out.

I felt almost famous being in the newspaper. Unfortunately my fame is only among those older people who read the paper. I’m not denigrating the older generation of newspaper readers and I’m not sure what the cut-off age is, but when I txtd my friends to tell them to look for me in the paper, their answers were along these lines:

  • Ignore me (it happens a lot due to most of what I txt being something totally random that I think is enormously funny but no one else does)
  • Tell me to save the article for when we next met up
  • Tell me he’d look at it at work on Monday

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Written by ClareSnow

25 November 2009 at 1:29 am

Boys don’t cry

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Update 25/08: nothing to do with the topic, but I had to amend view on Posse by Kate Welshman which I was reading while watching World’s Strictest Parents. I hadn’t finished Posse when I wrote I liked it. It starts very well, but deteriorates towards the end.

Even weird boys are afraid of their emotions – Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl (Penguin, 2006)

Because I’m finishing my thesis and my research with teenagers is long since over, the only teenagers I have access to these days are sk8ers and graf artists. They’re not quite representative of teenagers in general, so I look elsewhere for what the rest of the teen population is up to. My latest source is about as representative of teens in general as the real kids I know, but perhaps not quite as real, because it’s the reality TV of World’s Strictest Parents.  I’m desperate for anything to distract me from my excruciating thesis that I really should have finished by now.

James gets upset and cries a lot by Ann Blair I’m about to discuss reality TV because of the very real situation that occurs among boys and the men they become. I noticed this in previous episodes, but it wasn’t until the episode with a gay guy that I realized boys aren’t allowed to cry, unless they’re gay. Teenage boys brought up in our sexist world learn early on not to show “feminine” emotions like crying. If parents don’t model this behaviour, kids in the school yard will enforce it. Boys are “allowed” to show anger, particularly in the form of violence, or just plain avoidance of any emotion. As 16 year olds, the participants in World’s Strictest Parents are unlikely to realize that while they think it’s embarrassment at their mates seeing them cry that stops them, they’ve actually had 16 years of conditioning not to cry, from their mates, media and society in general. If any of these boys did cry and the producers chose to cut it, such manipulation by adults choosing to maintain this facade, would be even worse. I don’t think it’s the latter, tears from anyone make for good TV.

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Written by ClareSnow

15 August 2009 at 10:42 am

Research into Reading

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I’m finalizing the literature review for my thesis. (I may even have a thesis to submit one day soon!) And I revisited two papers:

  • “Is there a decline in the reading romance?” by Stephen Krashen and Debra Von Sprecken, and
  • “Longitudinal study of the reading attitudes and behaviors of middle school students” by Terry Ley, Barbara Schaer, and Betsy Dismukes.

Krashen and Von Sprecken examined the results of a number of studies of children’s reading [1], including Ley, Schaer, and Dismukes’ longitudinal survey of 160 US students over three years as they progressed from sixth to eighth grade [2].

In their review of the literature Krashen and Von Sprecken looked at “how much children enjoyed reading” and concluded any decrease in reading enjoyment as children age is only slight. Most studies used a 5-point scale and the average was always above 2.5.

At no stage do children show a negative attitude toward reading. [3]

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Written by ClareSnow

18 June 2009 at 2:11 pm

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


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