Many young adults love to read – but many do not. Interestingly, those who are avid readers tend to view reading as a solitary pursuit. For teenagers, “there are few opportunities for articulating reading interests and reading experiences beyond the encounter that an individual has with a text itself” (Rothbauer, 479). Reading for pleasure tends not to be a priority. Research consistently shows that “reading for pleasure increases throughout the childhood years until the age 12-13, at which point it begins it a decline that usually lasts throughout adolescence” (Howard, 46). Those who are classified as young adults tend not to prioritize reading. They are more likely to spend time at volunteer positions, at part time jobs, playing sports, or getting together with friends.
In spite of this, fostering a love of reading is important. For children, teenagers, and adults alike, reading is important. Research has consistently shown that “regular readers have better vocabularies, better reading comprehension, better verbal fluency and better general knowledge” (Howard, 47). The “multidimensional isolation of the teen reader” (Rothbauer, 481) presents significant difficulties for marketing and providing access to YA literature. Orca Soundings novels are a great resource for educators and librarians who have the opportunity to encourage reluctant readers.
Orca Soundings is a series of novels specifically directed towards lower level adolescent readers. The chart above displays the different kinds of novels that are available in the series. I read Back and Bang, both written by Norah McClintock. Each book is around a hundred pages. Both of the titles I read were set in urban environments and dealt with male teenagers who commit crimes. The stories are dramatic but believable. Details are carefully explained, making the story more accessible for relunctant readers. In both cases, the characters have odd names, like Q and Ardell. When reading it worried me that the male narrators would make the books less accessible to a female audience, but the chart above shows are the series creators have carefully taken different YA interests into account in order to better engage YA readers.
The information age has had a profound effect on the way that teenagers read. Reading habits have changed. Examining teen magazines makes this obvious. Comparing current issues to ones from as little as even ten years ago shows a significant shift. Articles are shorter, more like blurbs. Magazines consistently advertize online presences: almost every magazine has a website that is regularly updated with original content. Many magazines, particularly those that target teen audiences, also use social media to engage readers. Rothbauer’s research has found that the Internet has become “a default source of reading materials and a place for reading practices” (Rothbauer, 476). Online reading is easily accessed, brief, and accompanied with multi-media, usually photos or videos. Rothbauer also found that young adults have a tendency to associate the library “a place of childhood” (Rothbauer, 475) rather than somewhere they frequent regularly.
The “library carries the capacity to capitalize on its place of significance and function as a local site that can foster a lively and engaged reading culture for youth” (Rothbauer, 481). The Orca Soundings series works towards a similar goal. The importance engaging young adults as active readers shouldn’t be underestimated. Reading opens the door for critical thinking and, at best, fosters lifelong connections to literature as a way to understand the human condition.
Howard, Vivian. 2012. “The Importance of Pleasure Reading in the Lives of Young Teens: Self-Identification, Self-Construction and Self-Awareness.” Journal of Librarianship and Information Science 43(1): 46-55. doi: 10.1177/0961000610390992
Rothbauer, Paulette M. 2009. “Exploring the Placelessness of Reading among Older Teens in a Canadian Rural Municipality.” The Library Quarterly 79(4): 465-83.