I was heartened but not at all suprised on reading the report in The Bookseller which found that children and young people still enjoy reading print books – http://www.thebookseller.com/news/children-still-prefer-reading-physical-books-finds-scholastic.html. The report by Scholastic found that although e-books are on the rise amongst 6-17 year-olds in the USA, the attachment to hard copy remains.
As a school librarian I carried out my own survey a few years ago and there was a distinct lack of interest in e-books amongst my students, much to my surprise at the time. What, you don’t want gadgets?! Well, no, the students didn’t. They wanted more books. I think the report is right in identifying sharing as an important factor, but with young adults there is also that ever-so-important factor of demonstrating who you are to your peers by showing what you’re reading. Lugging about War and Peace or a dog-eared copy of Fifty Shades of Grey makes a certain social statement! And this is an important part of asserting your belonging to a group – or your rejection of one. (I see a similar behaviour amongst my fellow passengers on the commuter train every day.) An e-reader is also a statement, but a rather bland one, really.
What you read is who you are.
Interestingly the comments on this Bookseller post have raised the argument that reading is a predominantly female activity. The young adult novelist David Almond has risen to the bait to refute this and I totally agree with him; there were always far more boys in my library than girls, and more boys asked me to buy particular books for them; they also talked more about what they read.
One of my favourite moments as a librarian was when I was visiting another college to “booktalk” to fourteen-year-olds. I read extracts from some of my favourite books, and the sessions had gone very well. But as I was leaving, crossing the playground I saw two big boys beating up a smaller one. They saw me and stopped.
“Hey, miss, you’re that library lady. What was that book you were on about? The one with all the swearing and fighting?”
Me: “Oh, er, it was (un)arranged marriage by Bali Rai.”
“Cool, let’s get to the library and get a copy before they’re all gone!” And off they ran, to the relief of their victim (and me, as they were much bigger than me too!).
See, reading is good for you.
Just before I left that job, I asked my students to write me a list of the books they thought everyone should read. We had a long debate about what to call this list and came up with:
50 BOOKS THAT THE “DIFFERENTLY INSANE” SHOULD READ BEFORE THEY DIE
And here it is.
- The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
- Fullmetal Alchemist (series) by Hiromu Arakawa
- Foundation (series) by Isaac Asimov
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
- Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
- Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
- Thomas the Tank Engine by W. Awdry
- The Culture (series) by Iain M. Banks
- The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
- The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks
- Digital Fortress by Dan Brown
- Inception by Dan Brown
- The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter
- The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
- Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
- Nevermore by Kelly Creagh
- Anything by Jasper Fforde
- QI: The Book of General Ignorance by Stephen Fry, John Lloyd and John Mitchinson
- Sandman (series) by Neil Gaiman
- Coraline by Neil Gaiman
- Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
- Dune by Frank Herbert
- The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
- Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
- Anything by Stephen King
- Kick-Ass by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr
- Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
- How Not to Write a Novel by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman
- Scott Pilgrim (series) by Brian Lee O’Malley
- Eragon by Christopher Paolini
- Discworld (series) by Terry Pratchett
- His Dark Materials (series) by Philip Pullman
- (un)arranged Marriage by Bali Rai
- Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
- Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
- Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
- Edge Chronicles (series) by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
- Dracula by Bram Stoker
- A Note of Madness by Tabitha Suzuma
- Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
- The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
- Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut
- The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
- Lemming the Lemming and the Tube of Doom (unpublished) by Max
- The Bible
- A Dictionary in every language