What do children like to read?

BULLETIN: Check it out! We’ve just posted four great poems by young poets. They are Jana Foster’s 6th graders at Maumee Valley Country Day in Toledo, Ohio — Cecily White, John Sullivan, and Sam Shekut, and Sharon Brock’s 7th grade student at Study Middle School in Springfield, Missouri — Brandy Johnson. Congratulations and thanks for sharing! I hope a lot of people will go to the young poet section and let our talented young poets know what they think.



This issue of Language Arts (January 2010) includes an article by Denise Davila and Lisa Patrick that I recommend. The article is called “Asking the Experts: What Children Have to Say about Their Reading Preferences” and presents the findings of several studies on the subject. The authors remind us, “For the most part, adults control the world of children’s literature: adults write the books; adults choose which books to publish; adults review the books; adults bestow the awards on books; and adults purchase the books for their homes, book stores, and libraries. In the midst of all this adult control, children’s opinions are often overlooked.”

In one of the reported studies, the authors observe, “. . . when reading options are limited, students are left with three choices: reading something outside of their interests, obtaining their preferred materials themselves, or not reading at all. Students who cannot afford to buy their preferred materials are more dependent on school sources and, thus, their choices are even more limited.”

Several studies in the article present their findings when groups of boys and girls were asked what they like to read. Generally, both genders in grades three to five like scary, funny, and action-packed stories.

In general, avid readers of both sexes share many of the same reading interests although there are some differences. Girls more frequently choose fiction and boys more frequently choose nonfiction. Girls more frequently prefer to read catalogues, song lyrics, poetry, and cookbooks. Boys more frequently read informational materials about videogames, sports, cars, and trucks. Boys also like fantasy, crime/detective stories, and war/spy stories, comics, graphic novels, and joke books.

Where does poetry come in? Among 3,865 girls in one study, poetry was liked by 42%. Magazines (82%) ranked number one followed by text messaging, television, websites, catalogues, song lrics, jokes, fiction, newspapers, and comics. In a study of 4,341 boys, poetry came in at 22%. The only thing that ranked lower were plays, travel books, and cookbooks. Boys’ favorites were magazines, websites, jokes, comics, text messages, television, fiction, and newspapers.

I think this article gives us several points to consider, beginning with how hard it is to get past all the adults to reach our young audiences. We need to be aware that children do have rather specific tastes in what they prefer to read and among the few places where they have much control over their selections is on the Internet, when reading articles and stories in magazines, and text messaging with friends. Many children love books, too, but may have a hard time getting to the kinds of books they like.

This article concludes, “Just as children currently have strong preferences for reading subject matter that they access on websites or interactively construct via text messaging, it is inevitable that children’s reading preferences will continue to shift with the evolution of new media and technologies.”

Much food for thought.