I’ve created a literary survey that investigated the reading habits of young adults. I was very interested in what young people are reading and how they choose what to read. So I created an online survey to assess these questions. Please click on the link if you’d like to take my survey, too! I learned a lot about what young people read: it’s definitely not all YA Lit, which I found very interesting. I also discovered how important it is for young readers to find literary representations of themselves in the text: this reflects back on Lesesne’s concept of reading autobiographically. The most poignant moment of the research collection was reading the comment by the participant who said she wanted more books about African-Americans in her school library. I think this underscores the importance of maintaining a diverse collection of books in a library or classroom setting. The wider the variety of materials, the more likely it is to appeal to more students.
How old are you?
Do you like to read?
- Yes: 5 respondents
- It depends: 1 respondent.
- “on the book”
Which books do you prefer?
- Fiction: 6 respondents
- Nonfiction: 0 respondents
What types of fiction do you like best?
What types of nonfiction do you like best?
What was the last book you enjoyed reading?
- Adam’s Fall by Sandra Brown (18 years old)
- The Cthulu Mythos by H. P. Lovecraft (17 years old)
- Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (16 years old)
- Bleacher by John Grisham (15 years old)
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (14 years old)
- 39 Clues series by various authors, including Patrick Carman and Rick Riordan (12 years old)
What is your favorite book?
- The Chronicles of Vladimir Todd by Heather Brewer (18 years old)
- Dancing on the Edge by Han Nolan (17 years old)
- Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (16 years old)
- An Ordinary Manby Paul Rusesabagina (15 years old)
- Same respondent named If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woods and
- Saving Maddie by Varian Johnson
- Star Wars: Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil by Drew Karpyshyn (14 years old)
- 39 Clues series by various authors (12 years old)
How do you choose what to read for fun?
What kind of books would you like to see more of in your library or at school?
- “Horror and Romance”
- “We don’t have a library at my school”
- “Black books”
- “Star Wars”
- “Action, Humor, Suspense, Mystery”
What could help make reading more fun for you?
* Other responses:
- “I read all the time”
- “Reading is already fun for me!”
They’re Not Reading What You Think They Are: Young Adults and Reading Preferences
When it comes to reading and book selection and recommendations, it is vital to know your audience well. The wrong book: too difficult, poorly written, or given with too much pressure, can derail a teen (or an adult, for that matter) and discourage further reading. On the other hand, that magic combination of an interesting subject, skillful writing, and accessibility can create a lifelong reader. When I created the survey, I was most interested in what young people are reading, how they discover new books to read, and what could make reading more appealing to them. I’ll admit, I had some preconceptions, such as: teens don’t like to read nonfiction, teens stick to YA lit, and that many of them don’t like to read. With those notions in mind, my survey sample offered some unexpected results.
After examining the data, I learned some interesting things. For me, the most surprising part was when the respondents were able to enter their favorite book titles, and the books they were currently reading. I found out that the majority of them weren’t actually reading strictly YA lit; in fact, most of them were reading books marketed to adults. Teri Lesesne claims that book lists divided by grade or reading level (what she calls “readability”) are ineffective, and don’t serve the purpose they were intended to. While programs like AR reward students for achievement by giving them more difficult books to read, Lesene points out that this system doesn’t create intrinsically-motivated, life-long readers. From this small collection of answers, my respondent tended to select reading materials based not on reading level, but on preferred genre. For example, one teen I surveyed listed his favorite genre as science fiction, and his favorite book to be H. P. Lovecraft’s ponderous, 480-page tome, The Cthulu Mythos. Another respondent listed romance as her favorite, and reported that her favorite book was Adam’s Fall, by Sandra Brown, a mass-market romance for adults.
From the survey results, I see the importance of free choice of reading materials reflected in the answers to several of my questions. Lesene remarks that teens tend to enjoy books in a series, and the looked-down-upon horror, romance, and mystery. While these aren’t books typically used in the classroom setting, according to my survey responses, they are popular with young readers. The Star Wars series and 39 Clues were mentioned by my respondents, and another respondent mentioned that she would like to see more horror and romance books in the library or classroom. I feel that it is important to present students with appealing books and not to disregard the pleasurable aspect of reading, because this can help motivate students to read and explore further.
One of my respondents requested “black books” at her school library, and I was once again reminded of Lesesne’s concept of “reading autobiographically”, the motivation to read books that reflect oneself. I struggled with finding books for myself as a teen, too, and when I finally found one, it was life changing. Teachers and librarians should take care to offer a variety of books about a variety of main characters, so they can tap into to teens’ need to read autobiographically. Another student mentioned there was no library at school, which made me wonder where he or she was accessing the books, doing research for projects, etc. Not having a library at a school seems to be as significant of a drawback as not having books that one can identify with.
I gleaned that my student respondents aren’t opposed to nonfiction, especially poetry, teen problem stories, and biographies. The majority of them expressed an interest in selecting their own books to read for school, and would like their schools or libraries to have “better/more fun” books in them. I feel like this reflects a desire to read, and an actual enjoyment of reading, that can sometimes be eclipsed by the demands of the classroom. Many factors contribute to a love of reading, including a literacy-rich household, free choice, access to books, and positive previous experiences with literature, and it’s far beyond the reach of a small survey to pinpoint these factors. However, I think that it is safe to say that students in my survey actually do enjoy reading, read for pleasure, and would like to choose their own reading material. By treating young adult readers with respect regarding their own ability to self-select books, we validate their interests and help ensure reading will remain a pleasurable activity for them.