Peer Influences on Young Teen Readers
What motivates teen readers (age 12 – 15)?
Two key elements jumped out at me from this article by Vivian Howard: http://yalsa.ala.org/yals/yalsarchive/volume8/8n2_winter2010.pdf
One: The importance of relationships to teens: that is to say, teens will rely on peers as information sources OR as a guide for where to get information in place of getting information from a book.
“The findings of this study illuminate the central role played by people as information links and providers. Students relied upon a broad spectrum of people when seeking information. In fact, the interpersonal networks of students appear to determine the framework in which all information seeking takes place, therefore emphasizing the role of interpersonal interactions in gathering information as a critical component in the instruction process.“
Howard goes on to report on one teen respondent’s insight about why a ‘live person’ is considered a much more valuable resource:
“One teen respondent explained her preference for human information sources in this way: ‘When asking people, I consider their expertise. If you don’t understand what a person is saying, you can ask them [sic] to explain it a little further. You can’t ask a book to explain what it means right now. I go to people because of their interactive nature.'”
Two: Avid readers read for pleasure in the a “social context”, but to different degrees:
“…many young teen readers systematically described how their pleasure reading takes place in a social context, as an effective strategy to cement peer friendships. These teens actively sought to read the same materials as their closest friends and used reading (talking about reading, exchanging reading material, following the same series) as a form of social bonding…” while for others “…reading has always been and continues to be something they do for pleasure, but in isolation, and it is not a habit to be shared with either friends or family.”
So, this perhaps begs the question about what role might a teacher play in getting teens to read?
“Librarians (and teachers) can promote themselves as accessible and valuable information resources. They can also integrate themselves into students’ interpersonal networks, working with parents, teachers and others to develop and market programmes that focus on students’ needs and the interpersonal aspects of information-seeking behavior.”
But, this makes me wonder about that the teacher:
- needs to therefore strive to be seen as a friendly adult (not necessarily a ‘friend’, per se), a safe harbour, so to speak.
- must know their students: as a student, as a person, but also as a reader (likes / dislikes, abilities and challenges as a reader, etc.)
- could function as ‘reading mentor‘, as it were, providing reluctant students with coaching for the critical skill of book selection as well as how to find out about new books and then to what degree a reader wants to connect with other readers. (Howard includes a very interesting exploration of a ‘Taxonomy of Teen Readers’ regarding how much connection and influence peers exert on teens’ reading.)