Last week we gave you the adult take on how to get kids to read. Now we hear from the kids themselves, and they have a lot to say.
For one thing, said Myles Brown, a ninth-grader in Maple Grove, teens actually do read a lot — it’s just that it’s mainly on their electronic devices.
Eleventh-grader Jenna Stellmack, 16, thinks teens would read more if YA books were better.
“I’ve loved reading for as long as I can remember,” she wrote. “As I’ve gotten older, though, it’s become harder and harder to find books that I find interesting and enjoyable.” Books for teens should be fast-paced and teen-centric, she said. “And we don’t need any more coming-of-age stories or supernatural love interests.”
When you can’t find what you want to read, some say, write it yourself. So Jenna did. “It was partly for that reason that I ended up writing and publishing my own book on Amazon, called ‘Darkkness,’ ” she said.
One Osseo ninth-grader said that reading novels for pleasure isn’t — and shouldn’t be — the focus of teens’ lives right now.
“Sure, reading about important issues is good, but right now teens are living those issues,” she wrote. “These days teens have so much stress and pressure that sitting down and reading a book won’t help — they want to go out and actually change things.”
For ninth-grader Clare Mahoney, the biggest stumbling block is the crush of homework.
“I take a lot of honors classes,” she said. “Taking these advanced courses means I surrender a lot of my free time to doing homework. I also am a dancer, which takes up a lot of my time, as well.”
Most teens are “at school seven hours a day, with at least two hours of homework and sometimes more a night,” she said. “Lots of us play sports or are in clubs. So it’s not really that teens today are choosing not to read. Most just simply don’t have the time.”
Ninth-grader Christina Zhu had similar thoughts.
“Every day, we teenagers participate in numerous sports, after-school clubs and activities, and finish increasing amounts of schoolwork,” she wrote. “Many of us teens do enjoy reading, myself included — we just don’t have time.”
That said, teens still read an enormous amount for school. “We often read novels, poems and various pieces of classic literature,” Zhu said. “Reading is integrated into our school curriculum. Reading is a vital skill. It will never disappear as long as we humans rely on languages to communicate our thoughts.
“After all, technology has constantly progressed since the Sumerians first wrote the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ around 2100 B.C., and nothing has ever replaced reading.”
Meanwhile, up in Duluth, 12-year-old Norah Shultz just flat-out loves to read.
“It takes me to a new place and lets me experience the world, challenges and interactions that the characters in the story face,” she wrote. “I read whenever I can, and many of my friends love to read, as well. I would encourage everyone to read and try to find a good book because once you find one, you will never want to put it down.”
She recommends, in particular, books by Veronica Roth, John Green and Margi Preus.
A conversation for teens with authors Swati Avasthi, Peter Bognanni, Shannon Gibney, Kathleen Glasgow, Rachel Gold and Pete Hautman will take place at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 322 2nd St., Excelsior. The event is free and pizza will be served. Reservations at (952) 474-5263 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune’s senior editor for books. On Twitter: @StribBooks. On Facebook: facebook.com/startribunebooks.