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?

Blogging and Why Community Matters

When I started blogging it was all about using technology in my classroom and getting my students involved outside of my classroom.  Then I got the idea that it might be cool to write about the books I’m reading so my kids can get more book recommendations.  That turned into a summer hobby which has turned Y.A. Love into a full-fledged blog.

As I’ve been navigating through the world of Y.A. blogging, I’ve asked myself tons of questions and even questioned if I’m “doing it right.”  Often these musings are on Twitter and I usually get this response: “It’s your blog, so do whatever you think is right or whatever you want.”  Not always in those words, but the general idea is there.  And I have to admit that it’s true; this is my blog so I shouldn’t worry about anyone else.  But don’t we still think about our readers and our community?  Yes, I’m writing what I want to write, but I always have my readers and students in mind.  When it gets right down to it, my community often drives my blogging.  Maybe that’s wrong, maybe it’s okay, but it’s the truth.

Before Kelly and Liz approached a group of us about this “unconventional blog tour,” I’d been thinking about this a great deal.  A couple months ago I was emailed by a college professor working on his dissertation and asked if I’d like to be interviewed and used as a source about teachers using web tools like Twitter, blogs, etc.  During our conversations after agreeing to this, how I started blogging and why I blog came up.  As I’ve grown more active on Twitter, I’ve discovered that many teachers and librarians are using my blog in a variety of ways.  I know of one teacher who shows the book trailers I feature to her classes every week.  Any time I consider skipping a Book Trailer Thursday, I think about that teacher and those students and I’m motivated to write that post.  I don’t want to let them down!  And now because I have those students in the back of my mind, I’m not only thinking about my students.  I have a wider audience influencing my blogging.  I used this exact example during that interview.

Community drives what I blog at times, but community is also important because of the  support it provides.  I don’t know if I’d still be an active blogger if it weren’t for my community and PLN on Twitter.  I can’t express how many times bloggers like Kelly @ Stacked, Jillian @ Mrs. Heise Reads and Recommends, and Crys @ Book ‘Em! The Reading Adventures of a Wannabe Librarian have helped me out.  They’ve helped me with blogging confusion, reading ruts, and just about everything else connected to blogging and reading.  It’s important to remember that the blogging community and the community of readers following your blog are often in your corner and cheering you on when you need it most.  My community provides me with amazing book recommendations and blogging topics.  Just yesterday I was talking with another blogger about sci-fi and fantasy recommendations for my Y.A. Lit II class.  I wouldn’t know her if I wasn’t blogging and interacting online.  Our community is what we make it, and I never want to take it for granted.

To prepare for this post, I put together a readership survey on my blog.  I’m honestly surprised at the number of teachers and librarians who read my blog.  I’ve always had a feeling or good idea that quite a few do, but I didn’t realize so many did!  It sure is reassuring considering how often I talk about my students when I’m posting about anything really or when I’m reviewing books.  I do that because it’s who I am as a reader and it’s why I read, but I’ve always worried that I might be alienating readers who aren’t teachers or librarians.  Anyway, I’m sharing the results of my survey 🙂  Thank you to the 57 people who responded!

1. What’s your title?

Teacher 47%
Librarian 21%
Teen 12%
Author 4%
Publisher/Publicist 2%
Blogger 42%
Other 16%

*More than one response was allowed which is why the totals don’t add up to 100.

2. How did you come across Y.A. Love today?

Search engine website 7%
Twitter 37%
RSS feed or blog feed 12%
Email subscription 9%
Referred from another website 26%
Other  9%

*Yay! Twitter!
**I should have asked what other website referred them.

3. Which type of blog post(s) do you find the most useful?

Reviews 84%
Book Trailers 33%
Author Interviews 25%
Giveaways 18%
Top Ten Lists (Memes) 53%
Education Related 47%
Other 2%

*More than one response was allowed which is why the totals don’t add up to 100.
**I wish I would have asked what other types of memes they find useful.

4. What type of blog post(s) would you like to see more of?

Reviews 46%
Book Trailers 17%
Author Interviews 25%
Giveaways 21%
Top Ten Lists (Memes)  44%
Education Related  35%
Other 12%

*More than one response was allowed which is why the totals don’t add up to 100.
**A couple of the responses with “Other” were:

  • “Keep up the variety.”
  • “I like to hear how you use books in the classroom and which books your students respond to.”
  • “I really enjoy the ‘What my students think’ posts.

My 5th question asked bloggers to leave their website if they preferred.

I kept this survey simple, but the results gave me a lot of insight.  Like I said, I didn’t realize how many teachers read my blog.  Plus, now I know that many of them are bloggers as well!  It’s also nice to know that my Twitter followers are reading my blog links (thanks!).  I’m not surprised that so many find reviews useful and want to see more, but I am surprised by how many people like and want more top ten lists or memes.  Personally, I’m a list maker and love making lists, so I’m all about writing more posts like that!  Something that strikes me as odd is that 25% want more author interviews and 17% want more book trailers.  Since posting this survey I’ve posted two author interviews and had one Book Trailer Thursday post with two trailers, but none of those posts received many views or many comments (compared to other posts, that is).  Quite a few people want more giveaways, but if my last giveaway tells me anything, it’s that I’m either not offering the “right” books, or people don’t really want a free book all that much.  I think in my last giveaway I had 8 entries.  Seriously.  Something to ponder I suppose.

I’m happy I posted this survey because I know what my community is looking for.  I love knowing that more teaching related posts are in demand because I love talking about what I’m doing in my classroom.  Even more, I love getting feedback and suggestions from other teachers!  I’m always thinking about posting more reviews, but this last half of the school year has really worn me out and it’s affected my review writing.  I know more reviews will be written this summer 🙂

I guess if anything’s taken from this post, understand that my community is incredibly important to me.  It’s not only improved my blogging, but it’s making me a better teacher.  I know the blogging community can get overwhelming sometimes, especially if you’re new to blogging, but if you manage to find a few people to connect with you’ll be happy you did.  I really hope that as I continue to blog, I continue to make new connections and provide my readers with valuable content.

Plate = Full

I don’t typically get very personal on my blog, unless it’s something important about teaching or the like.  I’ve been debating about this post, but I feel like I need to write it.  This blog is for my students and me, but I still think about my readers.  I’m writing this post because I feel like I need to explain my shortage of reviews and posts in general.

There are two primary reasons for my sluggish blogging.  One of the reasons is work.  The school I teach at is set up in trimesters, and this current trimester which started after Thanksgiving, is all new curriculum.  We’ve taught three new units, most of which we’ve been working on as we go.  As you can imagine, it’s been tough.  I love the three units we’ve taught because they’ve been engaging, fresh, and have really improved our students’ writing.  Plus, we taught Of Mice and Men and The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner.  I was excited to teach TPoG because I love Gae’s book, and also because I created the teaching guide for Gae.  Right now my classes are finishing their memoir unit which has been fun, but it needs tweaking.  I’m overwhelmed at the moment because we assigned compare/contrast essays for OM&M and TPoG which the kids wrote, turned in, and then we handed back with comments and collected again to grade again.  Phew!  Those took a while to get through, but my kids really improved the second time around.  Right after I finished grading those I collected their memoirs.  I have 90 freshmen right now.  I have 90 memoirs to grade.  The trimester ends on Tuesday.  I’ll have final exams to grade.  Plus, I have my Young Adult Lit class to think about as well.  I still have book reviews and responses to grade, plus their final projects.  Yep, I’m feeling the pressure.

I don’t want anyone to think that I’m looking for sympathy because I’m an English teacher, and I know this is part of the job.  I always feel the push to get the grading done in a timely manner.  The difference right now is that I’ve been an active blogger for a year and a half which adds to the balancing act.  It’s tough keeping up with the reading, writing my reviews, commenting on other blogs, staying active on Twitter, and doing my actual job.  But I love all of it, so I continue everything.  Blogging has become a fantastic hobby and way of connecting with wonderful people.  Twitter is often a place of sanity for me when I feel the way I do right now.  I’m not giving any of this up.

My biggest hurdle is health problems.  For almost four years now I’ve been feeling off and incredibly lethargic and simply not myself.  I went to the doctor about it when I started noticing it because my mom, who has hypothyroidism, wanted me to get it checked out.  My doctor told me that my thyroid levels were low, but not low enough to do anything about it.  This was in 2008 or 2009, months before my wedding.  She told me that I’m probably just stressed and we’ll check it again in six months.  Six months later we check it again and it still wasn’t “bad enough,” yet I still felt horrible.  Anyway, after about a year and a half after my wedding my levels were finally bad enough that they put me on medicine.  The problem is that I still wasn’t feeling normal, was still having the same hypothyroid issues.  I went to a specialist this past fall and found out that I actually have Hashimoto’s Disease which causes hypothyroidism.

Now this isn’t a big scary deal or anything like that, but it affects me on a daily basis.  It’s been worse lately, and I’m seeing a new doctor (the specialist wasn’t helpful) who’s been helping me so much more than any of the other doctors.  I’m doing yoga because of her, giving up caffeine, and we’re testing a lot of other things that could be holding me back from feeling better.  I’m bringing this up because it’s one of the biggest reasons I’m not doing as much as before.  I have a hard time staying awake when I’m reading because I’m always so tired, so I haven’t been reading as much as fast.  I feel foggy and absent-minded, and more stresses me out than should stress me out.  Sometimes it really takes a lot of motivation to get the reviews written and the papers graded.  But like I said, my new doctor is awesome and I really think she’s going to get me back to feeling like myself.  Starting yoga and changing my diet has made a difference, but when you’re working with hormones nothing changes over night. I’m a very self-motivated, get it done right away kind of person, that feeling so lethargic and sluggish has really been difficult.

It’s funny to me that I don’t usually write reviews this long, but this post is long-winded.  Basically, I hope this wasn’t too personal for you, but I felt like I needed to explain myself.  I try to keep up my blog and have things ready to post almost every day.  This coming trimester isn’t packed with new material, so I’m predicting it won’t be so overwhelming.  There’s a good chance none of you have noticed my slacking, but I have so I needed to address it.  I love my blog and I appreciate everyone that reads it and comments.

Voila!

So Caroline created her own blog 🙂  Even better, her posts can show up on my blog!  So check the author (named under the title of the post) to see who made it.

*Ellie is now blogging as well!  Let’s keep this trend going :)*

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