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"Teens don't read"

Earlier today Maureen Johnson pointed out that the view of "teens don't read" in the UK is deeply entrenched (which is a word that I now love and had never heard before). As a teenager in the UK, the stigma around reading seems to be - to me - it's "uncool", it's "geeky", there "aren't any good books out there". I think the fact that a lot of teenagers in British schools are exposed to older literature or, perhaps, not that popular literature in lessons and forced into over-analysing and spending countless hours on 'what the author meant'.

A point that was raised in this twitter discussion was that people didn't want to be seen reading, or didn't want to be seen reading certain books. It's made me realise that I never ever ever see people reading in the older years in my school (ever). Perhaps the odd year 7 (12 year old) or year 8 (13 year old) will read, but - from experience - they will probably be teased out of it. It's just not accepted in school to read for pleasure. It's encouraged by the teachers, of course, but that just makes it more discouraged by certain students. Simple solutions: e-Reader or mobile (e-reader app) or book 'covers' that are available from book shops.

I'm an AS level (year 12 / junior year) English Literature student and I cannot tell you how many people have asked me what to read for Summer, a lot of people asking me whether "Fifty Shade of Grey" is good. It made me realise there is next to none exposure for Young Adult and Teenager literature - anywhere. Yes, if you walk into a bookshop, you'll find a (small and limited) YA or Teen section. Yes, if you know to look online on goodreads or on various blogs you will find reviews and (some) recommendations. But people do not know about these things.

I spoke to some people in my class today and they said that they didn't read before because they couldn't be bothered - it requires effort to read. Plus, they didn't know the books. So perhaps, just perhaps, if a) reading didn't have such a bad reputation and was encouraged by teenagers that do read to others (I've lent books out to people that don't read and they've fell in love with reading), b) if the YA and Teenage sections were more accessible and had a wider range of books and c) if people knew more about the books themselves - if there were people out there to promote these sites and people to recommend books in school libraries, and public libraries and bookshops... if the blogs and twitter profiles that recommend these books were made known to teenagers, perhaps then more teenagers will read.


  1. I say we get more proper epic fantasy or such books into classrooms. Agreed, the "author's intention" is over-analysed. Let's have some good, interesting books.

    George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice And Fire series is a fantastic example. It's much more engaging for most people than most of the Ye Olde Literature that people are forced to read in class.

    1. Ah yes, the good old "Hobbit" and stuff. We never got to do that sort of thing in secondary school though - unfortunately!

  2. This is such a clever and well thought out post, Claire! I completely agree with you.

    Recently I've started reading so much, encouraged by James, and I've fallen in love with reading all over again.

    I'm currently reading a book from the Teen section of the Harrogate Library. It is fantastic, but it was so difficult choosing a book to read, as I can never find any recommendation on YA books.

    As you said, "there is next to none exposure for Young Adult and Teenager literature - anywhere."

  3. I agree with this completely, reading is one of my favourite pastimes but I do think there's still an awful stigma about reading when you're a teen. It's a shame.


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