What Do Kids Want to Read? (A Scientific Analysis)

kids reading

Despite the fact that I have a degree in Library Science, I’ve never considered myself to be an actual scientist…UNTIL NOW. My job as a children’s librarian affords me daily opportunities to talk to kids about what books they like, what books they wish we had if we don’t already, etc. These conversations are usually just casual ones, occurring during class visits, programs, or around the reference desk. One day, though, I decided to do a “controlled experiment” and ask a bunch of kids of different ages the same three questions to see how their answers might vary and what their observations might mean for the future of books and reading. (Or, at very least, I wanted to see if their responses would be interesting/enlightening/amusing, because they usually are.)

These are the control questions I asked:

1) Do you like to read?

2) What kinds of books do you like to read?

3) If you were going to write a book, what would it be about?

I transcribed the kids’ answers as accurately as I could, as well as any follow-up questions that I asked. Let’s see the results of this highly scientific endeavor.

(Author’s note: author does not actually consider herself to be an actual scientist.)
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Case Study #1: Girl, 11 years old

Q1: Do you like to read?

“Yes.”

Q2: What kinds of books do you like to read?

“Comic books. Like Smile.” (By Raina Telgemeier.)

Q3: If you were going to write a book, what would it be about?

“How girls are in high school. And fashion.”

She then ran away because it was her turn to use the computer. OKAY, BYE.

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Case Study #2: Girl, also 11 years old

Q1: Do you like to read?

“YEAH!” (Subtext: “Like, DUH.”)

Q2: What kinds of books do you like to read?

“Fiction, mystery, comics, realistic ficiton, non-fiction, Chinese comics, picture books, and science fiction.” <– This was her rapid-fire answer, verbatim. Dang, girl!

Q3: If you were going to write a book, what would it be about?

“I’d put comics at the beginning and at the end, and a few chapters about fiction stories.”

When I asked her to get a little more specific about the fiction stories, she just said: “Fantasy.” Fair enough.

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Case Study #3: Girl, 6, likes to color

Q1: Do you like to read?

Emphatically: “NO.”

Q2: Why don’t you like to read?

“‘Cause it’s boring.”

Q3: Do you like ANY books?

“I like Barbie books. And Katie Woo. And Caillou!”

Q4: So you DO like to read!

*giggling* “Yeah.” (I KNEW IT.)

Q5: So, if YOU were going to write a book, what would it be about?

“A girl puts her sister to bed because she’s been crying all year.”

Hey, I’d read it.

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Case Study #4: Girl, 5, very shy (and her friend)

Q1: Do you like to read?

*shrug*

Girl’s Friend: “That means yes.”

Q2: What are some books you like?

*shrug*

Q3: Can you think of just one, maybe?

“…Dora.”

DORA SAVES THE DAY AGAIN.

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Case Study #5: Girl, 12 years old

Q1: Do you like to read?

“I LOVE IT. Wait, it depends on the book.”

Q2: What kinds of books do you like to read?

“Vampire books, mystery books, comedy books, fantasy, magic, and…what do you call it? Oh yeah, realistic fiction.”

Q3: If YOU were going to write a book, what would it be like?

“Well, OBVIOUSLY it would have vampires in it. Any kind of supernatural, magical stuff that has to do with danger and is mysterious. And it kinds of gives you chills a little bit and gives you a thrill. And it’s kind of an adventure. A journey, I guess. AND it has to have something, like an object, that’s magical and saves everything.”

That sounds like a very interesting book!

“Trust me, I’m not going to write this book. Someone is going to write it for me.”

Well, maybe you WILL write it.

“TRUST ME, I will not…but maybe I’ll type it. ALSO, it has to have three or more villains and the people who save the day have to be in a group, like in Percy Jackson. Not just ONE person saves the day.”

Q4: Anything else?

“It has to be in the real world, not in a magical place like Narnia. Like if we were in the library and I was feeling too lazy to walk down the stairs, I would open a portal.”

Portals in the library. I like this idea.
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Case Study #6: Boy, 16 years old

Q1: Do you like to read?

“Depends on what it is, but usually.”

Q2: What kinds of things do you like to read?

“Basically anything that isn’t boring. Something with murder. Nothing related to Star Wars.”

Q3: Why don’t you like Star Wars?

“Because it’s boring. Plus, that’s from before my time.” (YEOWCH.)

Q4: Do you prefer print books or e-books?

“Both.”

Q5: If you were going to write a book, what would it be about?

“How to do something without getting caught.”

Q6: Erm. Like what?

“Like taking Donald’s Trump money and spending it without him knowing it.”

Q7: So, basically, stealing? But only from Donald Trump?

“Yeah. Well, maybe Bill Gates too.”

Well, as long as it’s fictional.

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CONCLUSIONS:

1) Kids still like books.

2) Kids still like reading.

3) Everything is going to be okay.

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