Connecting With Reluctant Teen Readers

Jones, Patrick,  Maureen L. Hartman  and Patricia Taylor.  Connecting With Reluctant Teen Readers.  Tips, Titles and Tools. New York: Neal Schuman, 2006. 314p. $59.95 USD. ISBN 1-55570-571-5. ∞

This is a comprehensive handbook written by experienced librarians who have specialized in the reading needs of Young Adult readers.   Their book, subtitled Tips, Titles and Tools contains a wealth of knowledge in the form of strategies, explanations and commentaries, many of which come from personal interviews. 

Connecting with Reluctant Teen Readers functions as a reference handbook that can be dipped into when needed and mined for suggestions to apply to individual situations.  Beginning with an analysis of the reasons behind reading disinterest in teens and the term “reluctant readers,” the book continues by offering suggestions for many situations and book lists as possible solutions.   Throughout the text, however, the authors persistently link reading disenchantment with providing the right book for the right reader and not with issues relating to illiteracy.

Strategies to engage reader interest in the “right” book are interspersed throughout the first section, Tips, along with boxes of dialogue containing snippets of interviews with many well-known librarians and authors readers’. Their testimony lends credence and interest to this otherwise theoretical section.   

The second part of the book, Titles that Work, is comprised of book lists.  As a bibliophile, I always enjoy reading book lists, and noticed that the 57 titles “that can turn a reader around” contain a wide mixture of graphic novels and different fiction genres including some science fiction and fantasy.  Thereafter book titles are listed under Fiction and Nonfiction categories, and, while it should be noted that most of the titles on the lists were written by American authors, they are not all exclusively so; it was a pleasure to see Margaret Atwood and the Manitoba author, Carol Matas, mentioned on a list, as well as a few British authors.     

One subcategory in this section, which is surprisingly slim at nine pages, is the section under Graphic Novels; although it is very useful to have these titles subdivided into subject headings.   Under Best Twenty-five Comics for Reluctant Readers, for instance, manga, comics and graphic novels are intermingled in a single list, and, unless the reader has some knowledge of the topic, the list becomes almost meaningless.

Another section called Other Lists is composed of sets of lists which are reproduced with permission from YALSA’s (Young Adult Library Services Association) Best Books and Quick Picks which is a committee that recommends books for young adult reluctant readers, and VOYA’s (Voice of Youth Advocates) highest scoring novels lists.  This section also includes lists put together by Patricia Taylor.    Best Forty Magazines for Reluctant Readers, Best Book/Movie Connections and Best Twenty-Five Books for Struggling Middle School Readers are just a few of the lists which can be found here.

The section on Tools that work with Reluctant Readers is a little disappointing as it is neither as useful nor as comprehensive as the previous sections.  The primary focus of this section is on booktalking and even though it does provide fifty seven booktalking plots and titles (none of which are based on a Canadian novel), the only other tool mentioned is a lone sample reader’s survey.  The authors don’t mention props, planning author visits or links on the Internet in this section although they do mention their own webpage in the preface...  There should have been much more emphasis on this web resource, (particularly for those of us who rarely read the preface), as this website refers to additional material and provides even more book lists.  A substantial bibliography of current and classic articles from professional literature concludes the book.  In addition, all the books mentioned in this handbook are indexed separately under title or author.

Librarians who wish to connect readers with the right book will undoubtedly find inspiration in this resource. 

Janet Margaret Johnson, Liaison Librarian and member of Centre for Research in Young People’s Texts and Cultures,, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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Partnership: the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research (ISSN: 1911-9593)