Sunday, June 5, 2016

How do YOU read?

I just read a post on Got My Books in which Jeanene discussed the question of whether or not our children are being audiobook deprived.  She'd just learned that only 10% of all audiobooks sold are children's titles, and she was shocked.

I started thinking about what I see my pre-teen and teenaged students reading in my classroom, and what my own children, both struggling readers but lovers of stories, prefer to read.  I'd done a survey in my class awhile back too, and got a lot of responses that confirmed what I knew, and a few that were a surprise.

Click here to find out what she never saw coming!

Just kidding.  It sure sounded like I was getting set for one of those click bait ads though, so I just went with it.

Here's what I already knew:

1.  My students were reading WAY more physical books than any other form.  This despite our school library spending a bunch of money on obtaining ebooks two years back, when we issued every student an iPad.

2.  The next most popular form was not ebooks, but audio books.  A few of my students came in this year already knowing how to get audio books on their devices, and were more than happy to share what they knew when their classmates expressed jealousy that these kids got to 'plug in' during reading time.

3.  However, many of my students do not have library cards, let alone enough money for paid audio book services.  Why my students find themselves unable to take advantage of this gorgeous cornerstone of an educated democracy is the subject of another post, but it can be quickly summed up as "My little brother borrowed a bunch of DVDs and kept them a long time and now we owe fifty dollars."

We got around that once I realized that I could log in to my library account on their devices and download books from the 3M Cloud Library.   I have no reservations about doing this, because there is no way a student can lose or damage the audiobook, nor can they rack up overdue fines like a little brother.  I can only have six books checked out at one time.  A couple of times during the year, I logged onto my daughter's account and borrowed books from there, but for the most part, six books was enough.  Which shows you how far behind physical books even the second place is.  (For comparison, throughout the year there were between 30 and 70 books checked out from my classroom library at any given moment, plus kids brought books from the school and public libraries, from their own collections, from other teachers, etc.)

4.  Some of the audio book listeners liked to read along with their book.  Others did not.  There did not seem to be a clear correlation between student reading ability and this preference.  I gently encouraged struggling readers to read along, since it's a great way for them to build confidence, fluency, and word recognition, but I didn't insist on it, since THAT is a great way to build fear and resentment and anxiety.

5.  Hardly any kids read ebooks.  There were two exceptions.  If a kid REALLLLLLY wanted to read a book, and we couldn't track down any copies immediately, they'd begrudgingly start the book online while I continued to hunt down a physical copy for them to switch to.  Also, I had a small but fervent Wattpad readership.  This was definitely another one of those things that spread organically from student to student, not from my teaching or even talking about it.  The only thing I've ever done on Wattpad is read a few chapters of one of Cait from Paper Fury's novels and think, "Wow, this is great; I can't wait to read more," and the promptly forgot to every follow through.  I know so many adults who are passionately in love with their Kindles, but I really haven't gotten fond of reading long text on a screen, and neither, it seems, have the digital natives I attempt to teach.

6.  Most of them love being read to.  And I found it really interesting that the better readers almost all loved it, while almost all of the kids who obviously were disengaged were kids who really struggle with reading and read far below grade level.  There were plenty of struggling readers who did great with the read-alouds, but the kids who didn't get into it were, almost without exception, kids who really struggle.  And I teach reading support classes, so even my upper end are below grade level.  (Well they TEST at below grade level, which again, is a topic for another day.)  I had kids say things like, "Would you read this one to us?  I started reading it, but it's more interesting the way you read it."  Which speaks VOLUMES about the way reading to kids can help them understand reading fluency and the importance of reading with expression, and just the fact that reading is supposed to be a story in your head, not a bunch of words to say.

So then, here's what went against my expectations.

7.  They prefer paperbacks to hardbacks.  I kept scouring the sale shelves and Goodwill racks for cheap hardbacks, because they hold up so much better, and just look classier, right?  A given about classroom libraries is that it doesn't matter how good a book is if the cover looks beat up or dated.

But  when surveyed, the vast majority either had no preference, or preferred paperbacks.  They're lighter in the backpack and easier in the hand.  They don't have dust jackets that slide around, but they do have the cover illustration, which usually disappears if you take the jacket off.

8.  They aren't squeamish.  Again, I totally expected them to object to used books.  The price stickers that Goodwill uses are really hard to get off, and I was concerned that middle schoolers, who can be awful snobs even if (or maybe especially when) they are part of a school where 62% of the kids get free lunch, would refuse to be associated with them.  But I never heard a murmur about it, and when surveyed about their feelings regarding used books, well over 90% of the kids said, "Who cares?  It's a book, not underwear," or "As long as it's not sticky or smelly, I don't mind."

As for my own kids, they prefer me reading to them.  Reading to themselves still feels like a chore (damn reading logs--I think next year I might become a conscientious objector), and we haven't worked out good ways to listen to audio books.  We did check out some "Playalongs" for a road trip last summer, and those worked well.  It's an all-in-one recorded book on a small device.  You supply the headphones and batteries.

What about you?  What are your preferences?  What about the kids in your life?  Do they have the same preferences as you do?  

I like a nice hardcover, unless the book is crazy heavy.  Audio books drive me a little bit crazy because I'm a fast reader, so it makes a book take f  o  r  e  v  e  r  to get through.  Good for drives though, and I loved being read to back when I could get people to do so.  


  1. I loved paperbacks when I was a kid. Now, we didn't have ebooks but I have a feeling the physical book would have been my preference. I've always hated hardbacks. Too dang heavy. I love audio books now, as an adult, because I read on my commute. I'm not sure as a kid if I would have loved them as much, but maybe.

  2. I never used to like hardcovers but I do appreciate them now, i don't buy a ton of them but I do buy some, especially if it's a book I want. A lot of books I buy as ebooks but if it's something I want to own on the shelf, I'll go physical copy (whether hardcover or paperback may depend on the cove art though!). I've always enjoyed paperbacks best though...

  3. I've never been squeamish about used books- if it's in good shape, I think a used book has more character. A new book makes me nervous about breaking the spine or otherwise damaging it. I'm also a paperback > hardcover person. Hardcover is prettier, but heavier to carry around in a bag. I usually get through an audiobook faster than a physical book, because I listen during my commute ever day....I don't get to read every day. :)

    I'm surprised there is such an interest in audiobooks. I don't recall listening to an audiobook until I was in my 20s. That was largely because for the longest time they were 18-set "books on tape", a serious bar to entry with time and space and organization.

  4. Interesting! I’ve never been able to get into audiobooks. I usually get distracted, stop paying attention, and then have to keep rewinding the book. I’ve always preferred physical books.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  5. Sounds like your (our) preferences line up pretty well with my students.

  6. This is interesting! And surprising to me, since I actually love ebooks and can't stand audiobooks because I'm a visual learner and I get distracted while listening to things. I understand why they like paperbacks better though, that was generally what I liked too when I was in school. They're smaller, easier to carry around, easier to hold, etc. And I read a lot of used books in high school. Now I pretty much just read ebooks. Btw I love the comment about how they're books, not underwear lol.

  7. My kids will listen to audiobooks, but we haven't done them much. But they WON'T read ebooks - I've forced them once or twice when I wanted them to read a review book with me, but it was like pulling teeth. They are NOT fans. I think they prefer paperbacks to hardcovers, too - for all the same reasons you listed.

    (P.S. I just had to click on your link - very cute!)

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  8. Thanks for the mention. I linked to this post in my Sunday Summary for the week.


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