The MTV Generation: they sit, glued to television sets, mesmerized by online chat boards, addicted to video games. They shun books, reading only when necessary. In short, today’s teenagers simply don’t like to read.
Just how accurate are these stereotypes? Are the reading habits of young adults significantly decaying? Not at all; teenagers do read—the question is, does it matter what they are reading?
During the teenage years, “reading anything is better than reading nothing.” It’s important to remember that while some teenagers may be unlikely to pick up a Shakespearean play on their own, those same teenagers may find pleasure in reading a lighthearted work of fiction.
Parents often don’t realize that simple comic books or graphic novels may be sufficient to fill the literary void in teens’ lives.
Research shows that while certain books and magazines may offer slightly lower vocabulary and linguistic levels, their appeal is likely to increase interest among teens who generally choose not to read in their free time.
Teens who are nonreaders often will build better reading habits and a love for reading if they start with easier materials.
Fiction is the most successful literary genre among the age group in general. The reading habits of adolescents, young adults as a group tend to prefer fiction over nonfiction, and they seek to relate to their reading on a personal level.
Stories about other adolescents and typical teenage situations are favored by many young adults. Teenagers generally love reading coming-of-age stories and books about the confusing times between childhood and adulthood--real-life fiction topics like substance abuse and eating disorders seem to do well among adolescents.
Of course, nonfiction books and magazines are also important. Young adult nonfiction is a genre that educates and enlightens young readers while providing a sense of inspiration through real-life stories.
Statistics show that many young adults agree: While still lagging somewhat behind fiction, young adult nonfiction is on the rise. Teenagers enjoy biographies and creative nonfiction. Multicultural books and magazines are also successful among this age group.
The emerging reading habits of teenagers are made apparent by market changes in recent years. Young adult publishers have sprouted up, and writers are becoming increasingly interested in adolescent fiction.
Mainstream magazines have developed corresponding publications for teenagers: Teen People, Cosmo Girl!, and National Geographic Kids are just a few examples. Publishers have seemingly taken notice of a promising genre.
The Internet may also provide some quality reading material. YALSA’s Teen Hoopla website provides a comprehensive listing of insightful e-zines, online publications, and communities for teenagers.
Sites like http://www.cyberteens.com provide young adults with a creative outlet for reading, writing, and art.
Positive reinforcement of good reading habits is an integral part of young people’s education.
Parental involvement in particular can greatly influence the reading and educational habits of children at all ages. Likewise, discussing books and magazine articles read by young adults is also likely to produce fruitful results.
Teachers and librarians also can play an important part in increasing reading among young people. Booklists, recommended reading projects, and reading games can be fun ways for teachers and librarians to improve students’ individual reading habits.