Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How Can We Reach Them?

(Sorry guys, I hate it when these things don't post on schedule!!! Blogger Fail yet again!)

I am a huge fan of the blog Literary Rambles. Casey McCormick started it in 2008 and it is the definitive resource for finding out all about your favorite agents. Natalie Aguirre came aboard this year and is doing all sorts of book reviews and interviews with authors. Great stuff!

Yesterday, Natalie began her new series which she's calling "Ask the Expert." And who is this expert? None other than the guys for whom we middle grade mafiosi (and ninja and jedi and just plain writers) write. You can find her first interview with a guy named Justin here.

It was fascinating. Justin is an 8th-grader and a reader, but he doesn't find his reading choices on blogs. He gets recommendations from friends or sees ads on Facebook or Wikipedia.

In fact, this is what Justin has to say about writers and their blogs: If authors had websites that looked nice, loaded quickly, and were updated on a daily or weekly basis, I would follow them.

I don't know about you, but I've been to a lot of websites and most of them look lovely, upload quickly, and are updated regularly. So what can we do to get teens to visit, barring having them bussed in by the Don and his underlings?

I have to hand it to Justin, though. At least he reads. Because I am not at all sure that middle school kids are reading much these days. Unless it's the text on their iPods, iPhones, and iDon'tKnowWhatElses.

I googled "time teens spend reading," and came up with this blog post from a teacher in Canada called Elona Hartjes. Apparently, a report published in the Chicago Tribune called "Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8-18 year olds" found that children in this age group spend about 53 hours a week looking at screens. As Elona Hartjes continues:
Kids spend most of their time on their cell phones checking out Facebook, MySpace, texting, playing video games, watching TV and listening to music. They actually don’t spend much time actually talking on their cell phones. Those 53 hours kids spend on media takes away from family time. Communication between parents and kids is almost non existent.
All I can say is that when my 14-year-old finally saved enough money to buy himself an iPod touch, his screen time went through the roof. He used to be a big reader; now I have to force him (most of the time) to crack open a book.

(And I know, I know. It's the parents' responsibility to keep track of the time their kids spend on their devices and impose limits. I laugh now when I think of the "One hour of screen time a day" rule I had when he was younger!! As he points out, with a teen's chutzpah, "you're always on the computer yourself, Dad.")

With summer fast approaching, I can look into my crystal ball and see certain things happening: 1) If I want my kids to be active, as well as spend their down time reading, I'm going to have to 2) spend way less time blogging and more time connecting with them.

Either that, or I'm going to have to wake at 4 in the morning for my blog fix. I mean, who needs sleep, anyway?

Anyone else have "a friend" whose teen spends too much time on-screen? If so, what strategies does your "friend" use to make sure his/her child knows what a book looks like? A middle grade mafioso would be grateful for some advice.


  1. Unplugging must be a priority for the family too. I see parents all hooked up and then expect their teens to give up what they won't.

    Take them camping, without any internet, and you can retrain them.

  2. Both my kids spend way too much time on the internet, but at least one of them does SOME reading on there. The good news is that they still both love to read, and whenever we're in the car, or basically anywhere they can't connect, their noses are buried in books.

  3. For years, my kids and I have read aloud together. They are now in the upper MG/YA realm, but we still read aloud, as well as each having books we're reading on our own. It keeps us connected - to one another and to reading - because we have a common literary 'thing' to converse about. It's one of my favorite times in a day.

  4. I think we might need to impose screen-free times in the evening...and have everyone in the family follow those dictates.

  5. My kids aren't there yet but my friends with teens have designatated tech time. And then everything has to shut down at 8 or 9 pm--including talking on the phone (as if kids actually do this).

    I loved the Ask the Expert post too. I wonder if you created a viral video for your book instead of a trailer, it might zip through word of mouth faster.

  6. My pre-teen got an Ipod touch for Christmas and I had to set many rules since then about its use. She used to read in the evenings before this thing and that almost stopped until I made the rule that all devices are off by 8:00 (and I don't get on the computer until after they are in bed-even trade I think...)

  7. Thanks for the shout out about my new series. Trust me, Justin is one of those kids who does read even though he's on the computer a lot. My daughter reads but has a harder time finding books she loves. She just got an I-pod at Christmas and texting last summer. I do find she & her friends spend more time communicating online than in person.

    I'm not exactly sure how we get kids to check out our websites, etc more. One of the problems is that the bright ones who would tend to are incredibly busy. Like way too busy. Maybe if teachers got them excited about reading by having them check those things out.


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