Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

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A recent post on Publisher’s Weekly ShelfTalker — a blog “[i]n which children’s booksellers ponder all things literary, artistic, and mercantile” — made me wonder about the state of reading in today’s youth. The post, called “She’s Not a Strong Reader” by Josie Leavitt, recounts Leavitt’s experiences with teachers and parents who make blanket statements about their children’s reading abilities without taking the time to find out why their children are not “strong readers.” Leavitt explains that some children may seem like they have no interest in reading because they aren’t reading the right things. Reading is boring if you’re not interested in the topic — and this is true for both children and adults. Taking the time to choose the right book — the one that will hold your interest or your child’s interest — is important. Now Leavitt doesn’t mention that some children may not be “strong readers” due to reading difficulties and/or learning disabilities, but that’s another conversation altogether.

But rather than focus on the state of reading in today’s youth, perhaps we should be focusing on the state of reading in today’s adult population. Timothy McSweeney’s Internet Tendency‘s column, “The State of Publishing,” posted an article by Hannah Withers and Lauren Ross called “Young People are Reading More than You,” which discusses how, “[w]orldwide, young adults are the most literate demographic.” Studies show that young adult readership is on the rise while adult readership is in decline. YA literature is therefore selling more than any other genre and “young adults now devour books the size of Russian novels in months (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth book in the Harry Potter series, is six pages longer than Anna Karenina).” Withers and Ross quote Booklist magazine critic Michael Cart as saying, “Kids are buying books in quantities we’ve never seen before. . . And publishers are courting young adults in ways we haven’t seen since the 1940s. . . We are right smack-dab in the new golden age of young adult literature.”

So before teachers and parents talk about their children not being “strong readers,” perhaps they should evaluate how much they themselves are reading.

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