What do Middle Schoolers Want to Read? An Interview with a School Counselor

Barbara Truluck is a middle school counselor and recipient of 2018 Middle School Counselor of the Year for Cobb County schools (the second largest school district in the state of Georgia). I asked her about the reading habits of today’s middle school students.

Debbie D’Aurelio: How important is it for children to read books with characters that are similar to them in race, socioeconomic, religious backgrounds, etc? 

Barbara Truluck: As a middle school counselor, I know the importance of students
developing a multicultural perspective in order to function in our diverse world. libraryHowever, kids first need to understand who they are and develop their own self-identity which is a developmental skill.  As children grow and change through adolescence they are continually learning their own personality, gaining knowledge of their own skills and abilities, and developing an awareness of their own physical attributes. Understanding who they are, their ethnic background, their values, and beliefs must be developed before they can look at their relationship to the world and more importantly create the person they want to be.

In the developmental theory of Erickson’s Identity vs. Role Confusion, adolescents must struggle to discover and find his or her own identity, develop a sense of right and wrong, and find where they “fit in” socially.  A strong sense of personal identity helps kids build their self-esteem, feel part of their culture and family, and build confidence in an overall sense of belonging. This is why, in my experience, both in the classroom and in school counseling, I see students gravitate to reading books about characters that are similar to themselves in race, socioeconomic, interests, and religious backgrounds. While children are in the developmental stage of self-identity, relating to characters like themselves help builds character and strengthen their own positive identity.

DD: Many books explore some difficult topics like poverty and racism, etc. Do you find kids pick up these books on their own? Do you recommend them to kids who are experiencing similar problems? 

The adolescents I work with every day as a school counselor are for the most part interested in reading fantasy and fiction. They are not at the developmental age yet where books purely on social justice issues are their motivation to read.  However, children have a keen awareness of fairness and differences from themselves. Current research suggests that when children are exposed to prejudice and racism they can unlearn any bias when exposed to diversity in a positive way. In today’s society, there are disagreements regarding what constitutes justice and which values are considered right and wrong. Today’s educators and children’s book authors need to be sensitive not to usurp parents prerogative and perspectives in shaping their children’s ethical beliefs, values, and morals.

DD: What kind of books are kids in middle-school drawn to these days?

BT: The tween years are a time of turbulent change and character building. Let’s face it, in today’s fast-paced technology world, the majority of kid’s I see prefer social media outlets and the constant cell phone usage over reading. We have seen a drastic drop in reading Lexile scores with this generation. As educators, we are seeing that many students are so addicted to social media they cannot part with their cell phone long enough to pick-up a book to read. Middle schoolers are still moving through Piaget’s stages of cognitive development and become extremely egocentric and care more about the opinions of their peers than anyone else. Social media feeds that need.

When adolescents do read, they most often choose to read literature that mirrors themselves and their peers. They chose books created from the imagination like mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, and uplifting stories that inspire them to dream. That is why kids like to escape when they read a story. Children like to envision themselves in-bedded in the story. During this time of self-centeredness, middle school students want to be inspired and yearn for positive story themes.

There is so much negativism in the world today when kids sit down to read a book they want to be inspired and uplifted. Kids love books where good wins over evil and the main characters resolve their issues in a positive manner.

Barbara Truluck, M.Ed., NCC, NCSCBarbara Truluck, M.Ed., NCC, NCSC; 2018 Cobb County Middle School Counselor of the Year; ASCA School Counselor Leadership Specialist. Barbara taught middle school for twelve years before becoming a school counselor.

Breaking the Ice by Gail Nall @gailecn

btiKaitlin has big dreams. As a 12-year-old figure skater she dreams of competing in the Olympics. Kaitlin has worked really hard and is one of the only girls her age who can land the double axel. She also dreams of going to a regular school like all the other kids, but for the time being, Kaitlin is home schooled so she can spend more time training at the rink.

When she receives poor scores in a competition, Kaitlin, who is usually quiet and polite, throws a tantrum. She tells the judges exactly what she thinks and then accidentally topples the table of trophies. A major skating taboo. As a result, her highly regarded coach drops her and she’s kicked out of the premier skating club. The only rink that would have her is the Fallton Club, which the other skaters jokingly refer to as the Fall Down Club.

Much to her surprise, she makes some new friends, including a cute, swishy hair boy who calls her Double Axel. She has some new experiences at the rink – both good and bad. But, her biggest challenge is learning a completely new program set to tango music in just a few short weeks. Her new coach tries everything to get her dig deep and add more feeling into her routine and she draws on her new experiences to do just that.

This contemporary novel shows the pressures of being a competitive athlete along with the social challenges of any pre-teen — first crush, mean girls, stage moms and discovering real friendships. Breaking The Ice is a great books for girls ages 9-12. And, after reading it, they might just want to lace up some skates and head to the rink.

 

 

 

What Percentage of Children Are Reading Ebooks?

It’s no surprise that the sale of ebooks continues to increase. In a 2014 Pew Research study, 69% of adults read an ebook in the past year. But what percentage of children are reading ebooks vs. traditional books?

IMG_0759The number is actually higher than I expected. Given that most schools still have traditional libraries, the scholastic flyers come home monthly, and the book fairs are a big hit with kids, I would have thought that the number would still be quite low. Not to mention the accessibility of e-readers and other electronic devices for reading books.

In a 2013, Scholastic Study, the number of children reading ebooks has nearly doubled since 2010. Here are the highlights from the study. You can find the complete study here: Scholastic Study.

  • The percent of children who have read an ebook has almost doubled since 2010 (25% vs. 46%).
  • Among children who have read an ebook, one in five says he/she is reading more books for fun; boys are more likely to agree than girls (26% vs. 16%).
  • Half of children age 9–17 say they would read more books for fun if they had greater access to ebooks – a 50% increase since 2010.
  • Seventy-five percent of kids who have read an ebook are reading ebooks at home, with about one in four reading them at school.
  • Seventy-two percent of parents are interested in having their child read ebooks.
  • Eighty percent of kids who read ebooks still read books for fun primarily in print.
  • Kids say that ebooks are better than print books when they do not want their friends to know what they are reading, and when they are out and about/traveling; print is better for sharing with friends and reading at bedtime.
  • Fifty-eight percent of kids age 9–17 say they will always want to read books printed on paper even though there are ebooks available – a slight decrease from 2010 (66%).

One significant statistic is that 80% of kids who read ebooks still read books for fun primarily in print. Imagine that, print books are fun.

In another study by The Telegraph, “Parents are buying ebooks for their children in growing numbers as experts say a new generation may become more used to reading from an iPad or Kindle screen than from a traditional book.” You can find the complete study here: The Telegraph

The article also stated another study showing that children aged 10 and under tend to read e-books on laptops rather than handheld devices, however once they turn 11 they embrace e-readers like the Kindle.

Jo Henry, a director of Bowker Market Research, which carried out the study, said: “The e-book market is developing rapidly in all age groups. Children are big consumers of books and it is essential to plot their take up of this format.”

Although the statistics are a couple of years old, the article predicts that sales will continue to increase. Joan Brady, the Whitbread-prize winning author, thinks the sale of ebooks will never replace paper books completely. She states, “My feeling is that this will peak. It has not peaked yet but it will and then it will then go down.”

Some feel that the accessibility of e-readers and other handheld devices are encouraging children to read more. I can agree about the convenience factor, however, I strongly feel that it’s great stories that will keep kids reading.

For authors who you want to get their books into the hands of young consumers, publishing ebooks alone is still going to have limited reach — for now. But, as much as our kids embrace technology, you have to wonder if they will eventually be reading everything electronically.

Next to be obsolete . . . the pencil?

Double Vision by F.T. Bradley @FTbradleyauthor

Does your middle grade son like modern day adventure stories with lots of boy humor? Of course he does, that was rhetorical question.

3ee8d60f14856eca5afb5a5496c51bef_16xq_vptnAuthor F.T. Bradley delivers humor, adventure, mystery and mayhem in her middle grade trilogy Double Vision. Linc Baker is an unintentional trouble maker. He’s good at, “Racing Mania Eight. Skateboarding. Eating ten fries in one bite and getting into trouble.” He also happens to be a natural at being a secret agent which is very convenient because he looks just like the real secret agent Benjamin Green. The two agents are part of the Pandora secret spy agency and they search for dangerous doubles. Each book takes place in a different city – Paris, Washington D.C. and the new Double Vision to be released in October will take place in Los Angeles.

My son and I really enjoyed these books. The voice is so middle grade boy and so witty.

For more information about the Double Vision Trilogy visit http://www.doublevisionbooks.com

 

Doodle Day Draws Artists From Around the World #doodleday

Author/Illustrator, Alison Hertz @AlisonHertz, launched Doodle Day a little over a year ago and it attracted people from all over the world. Now, this online community enjoys sharing their doodles with each other every day. I asked Alison a little bit about her doodling phenomenon.Doodle Day Logo w White Background png

In a nutshell, what is Doodle Day?

Doodle Day is a daily doodling challenge for artists, writers, teachers, parents, children of all ages, friends, and friends of friends. I post a drawing prompt each day but doodlers don’t have to use it. The prompts are there for challenge and inspiration. There are many people who stare at a blank page and have a panic attack so a prompt gives that spark. I tell people to just put their pencil to the paper and see where their arm goes. It’s a stress free doodle zone.

When was the official launch of Doodle Day on Facebook?

Doodle Day launched on May 1st in 2013.

What are the current stats for the group?

As of today, Doodle Day has been creating daily doodles for 16 months. We have 375 members in the Doodle Day Facebook Group and participants have posted more than 5,000 doodles. We also have many doodlers who follow my blog, doodle along with us, and email me to let me know how they are doing.

What sparked the idea for Doodle Day?

When I created the illustrations for FLAP, my debut picture book, I was given only 10 weeks by the publisher and my drawing arm was in rehabilitation from an injury. The painful experience of illustrating for many hours a day left me unable to doodle. After final submission of the illustrations, I worked to condition my arm by drawing for short periods of time several days a week. In November of 2012, FLAP, released and my arm had become strong enough to doodle every day with little pain. I participated in Linda Silvestri’s SkADaMo (Sketch a Day) Challenge and loved it, so I continued to create daily doodles through 2012 and into 2013. On April 30th of 2013, while taking my daughter to preschool, she told me that she wanted to doodle with me every day in May and that we should doodle the same things. It is important to tell you that my daughter was already carrying her little pink sketchbook to preschool and drawing in it when the other children were napping. Erin suggested that we call it “Doodle Day May” and before walking into her class, she told me to “blog about it and invite our friends to doodle with us.”  I went home and did just that. I posted a blog about Erin’s idea and went on with my day. You can see that post here: http://www.alisonhertz.blogspot.com/2013/04/new-challenge-doodle-day-may.htm

The next morning, we had 60 people from around the world signed up to doodle with us. Doodle Day was meant to last one month, but the doodlers didn’t want to stop so it never did.

How do you come up with doodle ideas?

For the first couple months, Erin and I created lists of objects, characters, animals, plants, and foods and in August, we changed it to monthly themes. Erin and I come up with theme ideas and share them with the participants. We go with each theme based on feedback from the group.

Have you considered expanding to different platforms?

I tweet most of my doodles with the hashtag #doodleday and have had many other doodlers posting there, too.

How does an aspiring doodler join the group?

You can look us up on Facebook at “Doodle Day” or just click here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/DoodleDay/

Thank you, Alison, for encouraging people to practice their craft every day! Visit Alison at www.AlisonHertz.blogspot.com or my website at www.AlisonHertz.com