"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." —J. R. R. Tolkien

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Class of '09 and Reading

You know those fab book reviewers out there? Well, Book Chic has been doing the whole book review thing for two years now and is celebrating his two year anniversary over on MySpace. I have a guest post over there and a chance to win a hardcover of THE EMERALD TABLET and an ARC of THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD. All you have to do is comment at this link.

(Please enter! It will make me feel loved and popular.)


In other news, I got this on Friday.

And took it to a high school graduation party Friday night. I decided to ask all the kids there what the very best book they'd read in the last year was. I'd planned (and still do) to make it into a video, but haven't gotten that far yet. So I'll do a bit of summary.

The kids ranged from 15 to 18 (mostly 18-year-old guys).
One gal mentioned THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES.
Another 15-year-old gal mentioned BREAKING DAWN (and was totally Team Edward), but other than that, the only other mention of TWILIGHT was a flat out refusal to read the books by one girl.
THE HUNGER GAMES - Not mentioned.
There was not another cool new YA title even mentioned. Not one.
Seriously, the only other books mentioned were classics. (THE GREAT GATSBY anyone?)

We've all heard the thoughts these days that kids are too busy to read. That they have too much homework and too much AP English reading to do. But yet they have time for video games and TV and texting and Facebook and Twittering and whatever else is going on these day. Why not reading?

Where is the love??? And how do we get it back?


I survived my son's 8-year-old sleepover. The four boys only stayed up until midnight, and the decorate-your-own cupcake idea was a hit. Get enough sprinkles, whipped cream, and icing, and everyone is happy. One kid threw up, but it was from the dodgeball and too much Gatorade.
My son's favorite part? Staying up late talking.

Hope everyone has a great week ahead!


Christy Raedeke said...

Wow, I really want to see your video of kids talking about books. Very interesting that they cite the classics!

Isn't the Flip camera the greatest?

Dave said...

I used to teach English. One of the books the 9th and 10th graders liked was TOUCHING SPIRIT BEAR.

Also, some of the kids liked Orson Scott Card's stuff.

The Harry Potter series was the only one that everybody seemed to have in common though, at least before the class.

I so easily forget. Eragon was another popular choice for free reading.

Miriam S.Forster said...

I commented! Also, that video sounds really interesting. I didn't read the Great Gatsby until a few years ago. I must be behind...

Thanks for the email btw, I can't wait to crack into it!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

oh my goodness! No one read Hunger Games or Graceling? I admit sometimes I see more adult women in the teen section of my bookstore than teens. I even made a rec of Graceling to a woman who had read most everything. (just like me). But I know there are kids reading out there. Maybe they go to the adult section to get away from old folks hovering over their books. :-)
I'm definitely going to check out that book giveaway -- you will be most popular.

beth said...

That is verrrrrrrry interesting.

I keep track of what my kids read...and they are starting to keep track of what I read, because I tend to have such better book recommendations than they do.

Part of it is high school. We assign them books, so they get bogged down in reading those assigned books. And some of them really find a love for classics. Thinking back to high school, I'm sure I would have said my favorite books were To Kill a Mockingbird and King Lear in part because of the great teacher I had read them with--and because of the class discussions that added such depth. Kids are still learning to be involved with reading at this age. They may enjoy a new book, but they don't think about discussing it and exploring it in depth until college, in my opinion. So many kids count classics as their favorites not necessarily because of the story, but because those were the books they had experience with through disucssions and class time.

As to not reading new books--I'd wager that 95% of the books my students read for fun come from the library, especially the small school library. During school hours, it's more convenient for them to drop by the school library down the hall and grab a book there rather than the bookstore. Kids with parents who read have library books from the county library. But many kids don't have transportation, time, or money to buy books, so they're restricted to the library ones.

Also: they're not as involved with reading. I'm not surprised they'd not heard of Forest--but the Hunger Games does surprise me. Wait until they both come out in movies--the kids will love the movies, and then turn to the books!

I think it would be interesting to see the differences between your high school experiment and middle school and college.

PJ Hoover said...

I know, Christy. Interesting and a bit depressing. Who are we writing for?
Love the flip!!!!!

You must have been a cool teacher, Dave! Orson Scott Card rocks. I'd read that in school any day. It does seem there is an age when they lose that love of seeking out new books to read.

Thanks for commenting, Miriam! Zahi Hawass all the way! Hope you like the MSS comments, BTW.

I do wonder if the older teens switch to adult just because it's adult, Tricia. Like reading kid stuff is below them.

I never developed that love of classics, Beth. Maybe someday.
I think you're totally right about how much they actually discuss the books. This probably helps them appreciate that particular book, but also probably makes them get sick of the whole dissection of reading.

Thanks, everyone!

Anonymous said...


I think I'm going to cry. And then buy everyone copies.

C.R. Evers said...

Sometimes I wonder if most of the reading and purchasing of YA is done by the adults.

But then again, I see a lot of kids at the library when I'm there.

PJ Hoover said...

I know, Aerin! I think we lose so many kids by this point.
Next time I'll bring a bag of books with me and show them.

PJ Hoover said...

Me, too, Christy! It seems to be kids 15 and under and adults.

Solvang Sherrie said...

We didn't have YA when I was a teenager. I finished Judy Blume and V.C. Andrews in junior high and I remember reading a lot of classics in high school. I still have many of them on my shelf because I just loved them: Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, Austen, Hugo. They were all so different but wonderful.

I really enjoyed reading my mom's books. She was in book of the month club and she also got those Reader's Digest condensed books and I read all of them. So all the popular titles from about 1981-1986, I've read 'em.

Maybe YA is more for us old women trying to recapture what it was like to be a teenager and the teens are reading the adult stuff?

Justus M. Bowman said...

Ha ha. Nothing like vomit to spice up a post. Oh, I tried to comment on that other post, but I'm not a Myspacer anymore. Geesh! But I still love ya.

If that last sentence scared you, pretend I said, "I still like you, in a very writerly sort of way."

Robyn said...

I am home schooling--again. My granddaughter this time. She will read, A LOT. I'm sorry they're not reading. Yikes, where does that lead?

Regarding the sleepover and the poor kid that threw up, at Ivy's sleepover last year, one girl was having a good pick. I mean a good pick! EW, I immediately sent her to the bathroom then scrubbed everything she touched the entire sleepover. UGH.:)

Jen Robinson said...

I find the results of your reading survey really sad, too, Tricia. My response is like Aerin's. I want to jump up and down and tell them about Graceling and Forest of Hands and Teeth and the Hunger Games. Here are all of these adult fans ready to jump through hoops of fire to get their ARC of Catching Fire, and the teens aren't mentioning the original book. Something is wrong with this picture...

word eater said...

I think that one of the reasons as to why students cite the classics, other than the fact that these books may be the only ones they read that year (because they had to for class), is that some smart kids want to be seen as smart. They don't want to read YA because they want to think of themselves, and have others think of them, as adults.

I can think of many students who love reading and would benefit from YA books but get bogged down in the idea that they need to read classics, or that which is considered "literary". They want to be respected, and honestly, most high school teachers, parents, and mentors are proud when their children read Melville, Hemingway, and Joyce.

As a student in this age range, I haven't read Graceling, Hunger Games, or The Forest of Hands and Teeth, but I have read from a number of YA authors recently: Justine Larbalestier, Blake Nelson, Madeleine George (of Looks), Jennifer Downham, Eireann Corrigan, Margo Rabb, E. Lockhart, E.L. Konigsburg, Holly Black... There are so many really great YA authors right now, that I think it is hard to find a common book among teen readers if they aren't aware of the blogosphere; I don't hear teens talking about Graceling, Hunger Games, or The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I hear reviewers, people entrenched in the YA lit. world, people who have read most of the good stuff out there and know what good stuff (if any) that they need to catch up on. The average teen doesn't know unless it's Twilight- or Harry Potter-popular.

Danyelle said...


I think that sometimes kids let their reading fall by the wayside because their parents do. If reading is something that's important to the parents, important enough that they make it a family venture, then reading is less likely to be shoved aside for video games and Facebook, in my opinion. :D

Lenore said...

Make your own cupcakes - what an awesome idea!

Trisha Pearson said...

I would comment but I'm not on MySpace.

I'm glad you survived the sleepover - sleepovers are not easy! Just having a few extra kids really makes a difference in the noise and level of craziness, doesn't it?

As for the teenagers reading, they are really missing out on some good books! I see Beth's point about the library thing. All the books I read in HS came from the library. And if other library systems are like ours, I can see why none of the kids have read current books. There are waiting lists for new books, if our library even has them yet. It's discouraging.

lotusgirl said...

That video sounds really interesting. I'd love to see it. I think that the kids who read a lot are in classes like AP and have 15-20 books (classics type) to read in the summer and then a fair amount to read during the year and tons of other homework and don't have time to read the "current" books that are out. I know when I was in high school I hardly had time to read anything except what was assigned. When you ask them what their favorite is, that's what they know. On a lot of levels, I think it's a shame. I'm not saying I don't want them reading the classics, but there are some amazing books out right now.

I am a huge proponent of less homework for our kids. So many of the serious students work from the time they get home till the time they go to bed on homework. Few adults would put up with this kind of schedule. Why should our kids. There is no time to "read for fun." (Wow. A hotbutton issue for me, eh? heehee.)

PJ Hoover said...

LOL, Sherrie! Yes, I think we of the VC Andrews generation are trying to live vicariously through YA these days! Many of the classics I avoided like the plague. And I'm pretty sure it would be the same were I to repeat it.

Totally get the last sentence, Justus! And truly, vomit spices everything up, doesn't it? It's not a real slumber party unless someone throws up, right?

Wait, Robyn. I'm trying to get past your first sentence. You are a truly youthful grandmother. Okay, moving on, though a good pick is not where I'm sure I want to move on to!

I know, Jen. When I hear stuff like this, I wonder if I'm living in a giant rose-colored bubble where everyone reads and talks about books and authors and reviews and conferences and writing.
That said, I love the bubble I live in. It's a happy place.

PJ Hoover said...

Oh, word eater, I think you are totally onto something. They are probably trying to seem more grown up and adult!
You name off some fabulous authors, and it's true that I wonder how much I am swayed in my views by being so involved in the blogosphere. It's just such an eye opener.
Thanks for the comment!

Very true, Danyelle. I want my kids to always see me reading and know what an awesome and wonderful thing it really is. Lead by example, right? I never realized how true this was until I plunked out my own young ones.

Lenore, the cupcakes went over GREAT! I gave myself a huge pat on the back for that one.

The noise level at the sleepover was amazing, Trisha. OMG. Dinner was like a three ring circus. Oy.
The libraries do have huge waiting lists for books, don't they. So unless they know about them and know to get on the list, chances that they'll see some of the hugely popular ones diminish.

It is such a shame, Lois, because you couldn't be more right. There are SO MANY great books out and coming out in the future. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed because there is so much I want to read!
And if i had to shove in 20 classics, that would certainly put a damper on it.

Thanks for visiting, everyone!

Vivian said...

I could have sworn I left you a comment yesterday. Oh well.

I'm so glad you have a Flip! Isn't it the best? Hope you show the video.

Angela said...

Oh boy--my son's having a birthday sleepover this Saturday (he's 11), followed by paintball. Let's hope I survive. Maybe I'll steal your cupcake idea!

The lack of mentions on those books is staggering, too, BTW.

Kelly H-Y said...

Congrats on surviving the sleepover ... sounds like a riot!
As for the reading ... what you mentioned - the Twitter, Facebook, video games, etc. - really do seem to snatch the extra time they have! It's kind of sad.

Keri Mikulski said...

Interesting.. I can't really remember reading at that age, except for school and the summer romance novels. :)

I'm heading over to Book Chic now.. :)

Have a great week too!

adrienne said...

My kids are avid readers - but I have to say this was my daughter's first year in high school, and she really didn't have time for much leisure reading. Most of the books she read were English requirements. I'm sure she'll make up for it over the summer...

The sleepover sounds like a success - I love the cupcake idea!

PJ Hoover said...

I had some spam issues yesterday, Vivian. Maybe your comment got lost! The Flip rocks! I have huge plans for it. Now if only I could order the time to make the videos online :)

Paintball rocks, Angela! And yes, use the cupcake idea. Make sure to get the whipped cream you spray out and get some maraschino cherries, too!

It is sad, Kelly, how there are so many distractions. It comes down to reading not being a priority.

Thanks, Keri! I started to devour SFF at that age and kept it up even through college. Loved it! But if I remember right, my friends introduced me to lots of the books I read.

So great your daughter loves to read, Adrienne! And summer is a perfect time to make up for lack during the year!

Thanks, everyone!

Christina Farley said...

I'm so interested in watching that video. Such an interesting 'survey' you did on the kids and what they are (or not!) reading.

I've noticed that at our school the 8th and 9th graders are all reading the Twilight series. I see them all lugging it around.

Stacy Nyikos said...

I hate to admit it, but I was a sporadic reader in high school. When I wasn't slogging through Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (which, by the way, cost me years of my life in suffering), I did dive into classics like Ian Fleming or Mary Stewart. I wasn't reading YA, but then, maybe there wasn't so much out there. Did you read a lot of YA then? Was there YA? All I can think of is Catcher in the Rye and A Separate Piece. One we read in school. The other I read for fun in college.

Lenore said...

And I just have to echo others here that teens not knowing The Hunger Games is sad. At a NYC bookstore, the person working in YA info didn't know it. I mean, what did she know?!

Casey said...

I SO want a flip camera! How do you like it so far? I hope we get to see the video.

And I'm glad you survived the sleepover, too!

PJ Hoover said...

8th and 9th grade seem to be the golden years for YA reading, don't they, Christina. And lugging is definitely the right word!

Stacy, I refuse to believe you were sporadic at reading. I think you underestimate yourself. Sporadic was probably one book a week for you :)

Lenore, I know what you mean about sometimes asking about books in bookstores. I've had the same thing happen, and I'm amazed.

Love the Flip, Casey! I plan to get lots of summer use out of it!

Thanks, guys!

Amy said...

Well, when I was in high school 10 years ago we didn't have as much cool YA, but by the time I graduated I wouldn't have thought it was cool to read books labeled YA anyway. Now an 8th grade graduation? Maybe you would have found more who have read these books.

Now of course I can't seem to get enough of it.

PJ Hoover said...

Totally agree, Amy. I don't remember any books like the YA I love these days. But I do wonder if the kids feel it is too young for them.