One Writer’s Journey

December 3, 2013

Audience: Know What They Read, Not What You Think They Read

“Why won’t boys read books about girls?”  I’m always surprised when I hear someone say this.  Why do we persist in believing that girls will read about boys, but boys won’t read about girls?

My son loved The Hunger Games.  Being me, I asked why.  Being him, he knew I had an agenda.  “What did someone say about it?”  I explained that no one had commented on this particular book, simply that boys won’t read books with girls.  He rolled his eyes and then explained.  Katniss is cool.  She has a bow.  She hunts.  She doesn’t sit around and obsess about her hair and clothes.  She’s the kind of girl who saves people.  And, just to make a point, he made sure that I knew there are girls in the zombie book he is reading right now (Dust and Decay).  Cool girls.  Survivors.

It isn’t so much the gender of the character that is the deciding factor.  It is whether or not this is the type of book that interests him.  Period.  Girl, boy, robot.  Fiction or nonfiction, novel or graphic novel.  Who cares as long as the book is interesting?

Keep your eyes open.  When you see kids at the library, what are they checking out?  Pay particular attention to kids who are being allowed to choose their own books.  Why? Because as well as I know my son, what I pick out for him frequently differs from what he picks out himself.  When you see book lists voted on by young readers, pay attention.   Which ones did they like best?   How were the books nominated?

Adults may be the gatekeepers, but we shouldn’t fool ourselves into believing that we know more than we really do about what our audience chooses for themselves.






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