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A report from the trenches

I was working in the school again today, and the first thing the kids did was have silent reading time. This is a grade six class, so not too far off my theoretical audience's age, and just about right for many of my LJ Friends. So I figured I'd engage in a little market research and observe whatall they were reading.

Four kids (all girls, as far as I recall) were reading Series of Unfortunate Events books.

Five kids (all boys) were reading supernatural/horror (2 Darren Shan fans, one Goosebumps, one book about ghosts, and one I couldn't see the title of but it had a spooky font/coloring so I'm guessing).

One kid (boy) reading possibly my favorite MG of all time (The Witches by Roald Dahl).

Two girls whispering over one of those tween celebrity magazines.

A few kids reading stuff I didn't recognize but looked like fairly mainstream stuff.

The rest either weren't actually reading or I couldn't see their books. In any case, it appears that if you want to appeal to that class, you'd better be Lemony Snicket or writing something scary. :)


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 8th, 2007 01:44 pm (UTC)
I'm intrigued by this because it's so different from what I see at my school, where we have daily sustained silent reading time and a really strong middle school library. We see a huge variety of books being read. Had most of the kids brought these books from home? You mention so few current titles that it makes me wonder how much access they have to books and how much variety exists in their school and classroom libraries.
Dec. 8th, 2007 02:36 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure how many were library books and how many were from home (I couldn't get a good look at most because I had to stay with the kid I work with--otherwise I'd have been walking around checking everything out in detail ;) ). The classroom doesn't have much of a library, but I think the school library is about average size (trying to remember my elementary school library to compare, but that was a while back). I don't know how many really current books they get, though. I'm usually looking at the picture books and early readers when I'm in there because that's the level the kids I work with are at, but when I've skimmed the older MG shelves I think they're mostly books from the '80s and '90s.

A couple things to take into consideration, of course: this is an elementary school where 6 is the highest grade, not a middle school, so the selection of older MG books will not be as broad as at a middle school/junior high. Also, the majority of the kids have English as a second language (most of them speak Russian at home and many struggle when reading from their text books aloud), which I'm sure affects their enthusiasm for reading English language books and the demand the library gets for newer books.
Dec. 8th, 2007 02:44 pm (UTC)
I'm not Lemony Snicket... but I want to hug you anyway. Kazdreamer pointed me over here because my WIP is a Lemony Snicketish type of book.

I hope this poll is a nationewide thing. Thanks for making such keen observations. Whenever I see a young person reading, I'll either ask about the book or try to get a good look at it.

At the YMCA pool last week, the lifeguard had been reading a book since no one was currently swimming. I asked what he had. It was the third book of the Golden Compass trilogy. He'd never read the first two.

Thanks again. You've made me day,week, month, year.
Dec. 9th, 2007 02:41 am (UTC)
Such enthusiasm! Unfortunately I cannot say whether this cross-section accurately represents the MG market at large (and even if it was nationwide, the nation I'm in is Canada), but I am glad it makes you happy all the same. :D
Dec. 8th, 2007 03:20 pm (UTC)
My 5th graders class just read WITCHES as an assigned reading book, and then did a book report on it. I decided to read it too, and what a fun book! :)
Dec. 9th, 2007 02:44 am (UTC)
I love Roald Dahl very much (and have since I was a kid), and I think The Witches is his best book (though I'm quite fond of The BFG and Danny The Champion Of The World as well). It has his usual crazy humor, but also it's truly suspenseful and scary in parts, and it takes it's subject matter seriously when it really matters--e.g., when contemplating just how long a mouse-boy will live at the end. He doesn't pull his punches. :)
Dec. 8th, 2007 05:46 pm (UTC)
Well, poo! I guess I better go make some scary. I wonder if it counts that you mention Lemony Snicket in your MS?

My eleven year old adores sad tales. The sadder the better as far as she's concerned.
Dec. 9th, 2007 02:48 am (UTC)
Well, this was just an only somewhat random sampling of 20 or so 11-year-olds, so I'm sure you're still find even if you're not writing scary. Especially if you mention Lemony Snicket! ;)

I didn't realize there were many sad stories in MG. Or is she reading up? I remember reading a lot of Lurlene McDaniel's YA stuff when I was around that age. Can't get much more depressing than having every main character have a terminal illness! :P
Dec. 9th, 2007 03:24 am (UTC)
She reads a lot of Ann Martin and it may be she only shares the sad parts of the books with me. lol. I haven't read any of them yet. They're in my TBR pile though.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

My Books

Earth & Sky
(Earth & Sky #1, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2014

The Clouded Sky
(Earth & Sky #2, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

A Sky Unbroken
(Earth & Sky #3, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

The Way We Fall
(Fallen World #1, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2012

The Lives We Lost
(Fallen World #2, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2013

The Worlds We Make
(Fallen World #3, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2014

Those Who Lived: Fallen World Stories
(Fallen World #3.5, apocalyptic YA)
self pubbed, 2014

Give Up the Ghost
(paranormal YA)
Henry Holt, 2009

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