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?

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