What About the Teen Readers?

It’s been a fiery couple of weeks since ALA ended and posts and conversations about the conference and ARCs started popping up all over the web and Twitter.  I’m not here to blog about that because I think that topic has been beaten to death, and I really don’t have anything to add.  My primary concern from everything that has been brought up is this: What are bloggers (teachers, librarians, book sellers, enthusiastic readers, etc) doing to target TEENS?  I put TEENS in caps because isn’t that the intended YA audience?  I don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth, but it’s safe to assume that YA authors are writing their books for TEENS.

This thought woke me up this morning, so I know I need to write about it.  As a teacher, I’m reading YA because it helps me connect with my students and build a community of readers in my classroom and in my school.  I know other teachers do this as well, as do librarians.  As a teacher and blogger I’m writing about the books I read so my students can keep up with and learn more about the books I’m reading, but also to help other teachers and librarians find books to read and then offer to their students or patrons.  I blog for myself and my students first, but when I did a readership poll I discovered that much more of my readers are teachers and librarians than I originally thought.  Even though my blog is appealing to a specific group of people, my blog isn’t that different when it comes to who it appeals to than, say, a blog written by an adult avid YA reader.  Many of us know and realize that adults are reading our blogs.  Isn’t it kind of funny that we might have more adults reading about the YA books we’re reading than TEENS?

If anything’s been learned these past two weeks, it’s that bloggers are a passionate group of people.  We love books.  We love discussing and promoting books.  We love connecting with authors.  All good things, right?  But again, this is a large group of adults.  I know of some teen YA bloggers, and I certainly want to know about more (share if you follow some great TEEN bloggers!), but I know of more adult bloggers than anything else.  I see more adults at author events than TEENS.  So what can a bunch of passionate YA bloggers do to connect all of these awesome books with TEENS?

The fact that I don’t know about more TEEN bloggers makes me wonder if it’s because many of them simply aren’t thinking about book blogging.  Or using their time on the Internet for that.  I polled my students last year about what they like to read and how they find out about new books, and not one mentioned looking up reviews online or reading blogs.  This surprised me, especially since all of them know what blogging is and that there are other people out there who blog about books besides me.  When I saw this last year, it really gave me pause because I don’t think I have some abnormal group of students who would answer that way on a survey.  I really don’t think that many TEENS are reading blogs and finding books that way.  Sure, they might Google something and find our blogs, and that’s great, but what can we do to bring more TEENS to our blogs?  Or better yet, how can we connect with more TEENS?

For a teacher or librarian this is easy because we work with them every day.  We have trusting relationships with our TEENS and know what recommendations to make.  How can all of us in this passionate group go beyond our adult readership and target the TEENS that YA is aimed at?  I know of many readers and bloggers who donate their books to libraries and schools.  Yay! you, I say!  But because I’m a teacher, I then think, what will happen to those books in a school library without a librarian?  If you know anything about the state of education right now, then you should know that librarians have been cut first.  A book in a library without a librarian to promote it isn’t reaching its full potential.  A book in a classroom with a teacher who isn’t staying current and reading YA isn’t reaching its full potential.  Should those books still be there for students who will find it regardless?  Yes!  But I wonder if more bloggers could find a way to volunteer at their local school libraries or public libraries to help promote the books they read and donate, especially in school libraries lacking a librarian.  Could they find a way to set up some kind of program?

What about bloggers who are booksellers or who have solid working relationships with publishers and/or authors?  Could those bloggers find ways to help bring authors to their town/school/library for TEENS to meet?  What can booksellers do to get the word out to TEENS when YA authors are coming to their store?  Since many of the indies around me are an hour or more away, I’d love advanced notice when a YA author is coming to one of their stores so I can use that extra time to arrange for some of my students to find a way there.  I work in a district where money is tight, and traveling an hour or more isn’t always an option for my students.

I know of many fantastic YA TEEN conventions, but all of them seem to be on the west coast, in New York, or in Texas.  About that.  How can we bring these TEEN events to more areas?  Is that something bloggers can work on together?

Maybe this is a lofty post, but as a literacy advocate and teacher, I can’t help but think about TEENS first.  All of us are reading because we love it, so doesn’t it make sense that we help spread that love specifically to the target audience?

Comments

  1. I am in love with this post. You bring up very valid points in relation to how can we connect to teens.

    Last year when I went to the Decatur Book Festival for a YA extravaganza, there were a lot of teens in the audience, but again it was dominated by adults. Adults who had their pens ready and wrote down tidbits the authors made so they could write about it. But do you know what I discovered about several of these adults? They were YA bloggers but not teachers nor librarians. I saw one in particular get in line to purchase Lola and the Guy Next Door two weeks before it was to hit store shelves. Instead of buying one copy, she bought five! There was only one box available, and other bloggers were in line buying multiple copies as well, high-fiving one another, taking pictures, and then tweeting them. The teens that had been waiting in line to purchase a copy were left with nothing because only four people were able to purchase by the end of it. I watched this unfold in horror and was embarrassed that adults would act that way. I followed these bloggers on Twitter, but no more. It left a bitter taste in my mouth.

    This incident popped into my head when I read the article about what to do with the ARC problem that occurred at ALA, and it reminded me that some are not in the community for the same reason we are – to share our love of reading with our students, fellow teachers, and anyone else who stumbles across our blogs.

    But it takes me back to your original question – how do we get teens involved beyond the pages of books? I love that you have your students guest post on here, and I’ve asked my students if there were willing to do something like that too. They’re so hesitant, and I’m not sure how to encourage them more. I’ve thought about doing a spotlight on classroom readers where my students fill out a reading profile of themselves, including students who are reluctant readers.

    Any suggestions?

    • It’s a shame that the people running that event didn’t intervene or at least have more books available for everyone. That’s definitely an example where both parties should be looked at.

      The thing about my students’ guest reviews is that they’re required for my YA Lit class and posted on Goodreads. After they post them, I ask for permission to share them on my blog, which most are excited about because they see it as an honor to have their review here. More and more, though, are offering to write posts. I think once they have it written and somewhere that’s not quite in the spotlight, they feel a little more at ease about the whole thing.

      I like the reading profile idea. I tried doing something like that a couple years ago, but I never remembered to update it. You should do it! :)

  2. I love this post and where your thinking is headed here. It mirrors thoughts I have had so many times as I’ve been at conventions or reading about ARCs or blogs over the past year. No matter what one’s “label” is, I only hope that the books are ultimately getting to those who get them into the hands of kids to read. As a teacher/blogger like you, I hope that my blogging helps other teachers find books that they can share with students. I would love to see this idea of non-education bloggers reaching out and connecting with their local schools to do some kind of bookish events. Great thinking you were doing this morning :)

  3. thereadingzone says:

    Fabulous post! :) I’m only an hour from NYC, but most of my teens can’t get to events there. It’s either cost-prohibitive or takes place on a weekday during school. I’d love to see more Teen Book Festivals (as opposed to conferences, which I see as more for professional development/trade).

    I will mention that a good number of my teens are on Goodreads and use that for book recommendations. But a group of my students started a blog and are sharing their reviews, which is my real reason for commenting. :)

    http://pagesofourcastle.blogspot.com/

    Check them out!

    • Thanks for sharing their blog! I’m teaching a YA Lit II class this coming school year and one of the requirements will be to create a blog and write reviews there and/or create a Goodreads account to do the same. I’ll be sure to use your students’ blog as an example :)

  4. Barb Rheinhardt says:

    Insightful thinking…we should all remember what reading meant to us as teens and that teen readers become adult readers. Working on what can be done to reach more teen readers is a worthwhile pursuit!

  5. Well you know I’m a teacher too, and I wholeheartedly agree with your points here, as expected. I also feel like people forget that YA books are written for teens. It’s easy for you and me to remember–we see those teens all the time! I’m doing everything in my power to promote as many books as I can, plus I try to let my kids know about author events coming up (although they are usually in Lansing and an hour drive is not possible for some kids).

    I guess I’m not really sure what my point is, other than I agree :)

  6. These are great points that you make. I use your blog and others like it to get great titles to read and promote to my students. (A very common sentence starter in my room is ‘My teacher friend Sarah said…’) I have found it hard to get students to look outside the classroom for other books and consider blogs and reviews in choosing a book. Some students are on Goodreads but rarely update. You are inspiring me to look into having students write more about what they read and use my or a classroom blog to help them get the start. I don’t know…I want to make it more for teens but I’m not sure how.

    Ok, rambling over. I hope something in there made sense. :)

    • You made sense! I’m still thinking of new ways to make my blog more student interactive, too. It’s funny that my kids like writing questions for the authors participating in Students Want to Know, but they don’t comment on what the authors said.

  7. Love this post! I have thought the same exact things many times. I love the idea of the ARCS Float On website, but I have no idea how many book people actually take advantage of it.
    Now I’m wondering how we can use book blogs in the classroom? Have them check out a blog and inform the class of 1 new book they think sounds good? Give rationale to librarian (or teacher) for why they want that book in the library?
    Hmm…

  8. Awesome post. Personally, I started reading YA because of my daughter. I want to know what she is reading, but it was evolved into a partnership. We recommend and discuss with each other. Then we both book bully. She does it directly to her friends. I let their parents know when good ebooks are on sale for those that have eReaders. The most enjoyable thing that has happened is the kids at my school come to me for a book recommendation. I’m the social studies teacher, not the English. It warms my heart when I help them pick the right book. But I hope to meet your challenge and see what I can do for my local public library. *taps fingers*

    • I think it’s cool that you’re a social studies teacher and recommending YA! Have you been able to include any YA historical fiction in your classes? I wish more of the teachers, especially non-English teachers, would read and recommend YA to students. I think it makes an even stronger impact when non-English teachers are reading and telling their students about it.

  9. You bring up some awesome points here! I’ve definitely noticed that a large majority of bloggers are adults, and it would great to reach out to more teen. I’m only 20, so I’m kind of between a full fledged teen and an adult. I have a lot of friends that are still part of that teen category, so I basically force my blog on them :) A few of them had said that they enjoy my blog (which is still fairly new) over others because I’m closer to their age than many of the bloggers out there, so they “respect my opinion more.” I think we need to somehow find a way to get these teens to start their own blogs, and then perhaps the demographic of teen bloggers/readers would grow.

    I think one cool idea would be to have students create a blog for their English class. Obviously not everyone would enjoy the project, but I’m sure there’d be some that would potentially keep their blog maintained after the class was finished.

    • I like the idea of getting more teens to blog, which is why I’m making it part of my YA Lit II class this coming school year. Not only will it give them more opportunities to write, but it will give them a venue to discuss the books they’re reading (which is why so many of us CHOOSE to blog). I hope it works out and that students outside of the class read their blogs and grow more interested in reading and maybe even choosing to blog themselves :)

  10. Speaking as one of few teen book bloggers I completely understand you concern. Though I am a teen myself the majority of my followers, especially those with YA book blogs, are adults. I know that some of my friends do read blogs, and even read some book blogs, but most of the time teens choose books that their friends recommended. I agree with the previous comment that perhaps getting more teens to blog would encourage them to choose YA books. Or then again, maybe libraries and book stores could start promoting some of the great YA book blogs out there that are geared towards teens.

    -Sarah
    http://laceandlavenderhints.blogspot.ca

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  1. […] For a teacher or librarian this is easy because we work with them every day. We have trusting relationships with our TEENS and know what recommendations to make. How can all of us in this passionate group go beyond our …  […]

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