Popular culture, reading and the upcoming Year 7’s

Interview with an 11 year old girl, research on reading and the

implications for the school library

With 2015 seeing the addition of Year 7 to Queensland Secondary schools, the school library needs to be prepared for this new cohort joining the school ranks. It is with this in mind that I spoke with Amy (not her real name) an 11 year old girl from a middle class home, who attends a Catholic Primary school and who will be one of those going into year 7 next year.

I started my conversation with Amy by asking her what kinds of books she liked to read, her response was – “Dramatic, Fiction – books with a twist” an example of a twist was given as the book having something real in it eg. a tiger *but* the tiger can talk! Amy also said she likes reading classics. When I asked Amy why she likes to read these types of books she stated that “They catch my attention, I can’t put it down”

Examples Amy gave of books she likes to read are: The Tigers Egg by Jon Berkeley, Bridge to Tarabithia, Geronimo Stilton and The Book Thief.


When I asked Amy about what movies and TV shows she liked to watch they included the following:

Movies and TV

Movies and TV

I then asked her why she liked these, she found this question difficult to answer for the movies but said that the TV shows were funny and made her laugh. The show prank patrol made her think of things she might prank her brother with.

When it came to music Amy said she liked POP music, bands and singers such as:

GRL, 5 Seconds of Summer, Katie Perry, Megen Trainer, Victoria Justice, Ariana Grande

Amy says she likes the music because it is cool and listening to/watching music is something she does with her friends.

**Amy’s mother was present when I was speaking to her and let me know that some of the singers Amy listons to such as Victoria Justice and Ariana Grande are also characters in TV shows that Amy watches, eg. Ariana Grande plays the character Cat Valentine in Sam & Cat. Amy’s mother also said that Amy often came home from school with a new singer/band to check out or that she had heard about through friends and liked.

It seems as though the choices Amy makes are based on pleasure as well as her friends influence. I was quite surprised at some of the choices of fiction she had made, in particular at the books which dealt with sickness and death. I must admit though that at the moment not teaching I am quite out of touch with the books, music and movies preteens and teens are choosing to read today.

When it comes to the computer and the internet, Amy generally uses it to access things such as music, craft ideas, information for assignments, to use I Movie (mainly for assignments). I was interested to learn that she does not play games on the computer/internet however has played one or two games on her mothers phone or on the Ipod. This goes against what I was expecting in terms of game playing.

Studies show that girls are more likely to enjoy reading, read animal related stories, realistic teenage fiction, romance/relationship and poetry. While boys read more science-fiction, crime/detective stories,sports-related fiction and war/spy-related stories (Clark, C., Torsi, S., Strong, J., 2005, p.37). Amy seems to fit into these findings in terms of what she is reading. Clark et al. (2005) goes on to state that studies have shown that reading for pleasure peaks between the ages 9-11 with the highest decline in fiction reading and reading pleasure being between 12-15 year olds (p.37)

So what does this mean for the school library as the Year 7 cohort join secondary schools across queensland in 2015. Clark, et al. (2005) believe that “the richness and diversity of young people’s reading… emphasises the importance of choice in reading materials to engage pupils” (p.37). The report goes on to discuss the importance in the variety of reading materials offered ie. books, magazines and the internet. (Clark, C. et al., 2005) While my interview with Amy gives a snapshot of one student  from a particular background, I feel that it is an example of how our expectations of what young people are reading, listening to and doing on the internet can be very wrong. In the school I am currently doing my placement in the teacher-librarian and aides sometimes put recipe books out on display and these are snapped up by students to read and use at home. They talk to the students to find out what is popular and sometimes have students assist in chosing the books which are purchased for the library. It is in this way they keep a collection which is relevant to the students and meets their needs. Knowing the students, knowing what they read and do at home (for example, that Amy looks up craft ideas) helps to inform us as teachers and as librarians and to engage students in reading for pleasure and to combat the decline seen in reading seen between the ages of 12 and 15.


Clark, C., Torsi, S., Strong, J., 2005, Young People and Reading – A school study conducted by the National Literacy Trust for the Reading Champions initiative. London UK. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED541596.pdf

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