Is It Just Lockdown That’s Driving Children Towards More Challenging Books?

Recent studies have shown that children are reading more challenging and longer books during the lockdown. They’ve been checking out longer texts and novels on more challenging topics than ever before.

While you might think that kids would be less inclined to read with schools closed and so much technology at their disposal, they’re actually reading more books and ones that involve more complex ideas and plot points.

That’s a great thing: reading can help kids with everything from increasing their vocabulary to helping them to learn more about different cultures and experiences. It’s an important part of life and it can be really vital for kid’s development.

Fantasy novels topped the list of books that kids read during the past year, with Rick Reardon’s The House of Hades coming out on top. Other popular titles included Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban and The Hate You Give. As you can see, the titles are predominantly fantasy. The Harry Potter title was an obvious one; that series is like comfort reading. However, that particular book marks the point in which the series turns from a cheery children’s saga into a darker, more complicated set of books.

So, it’s clear that children are enjoying more complex books over the past few months. Obviously, this study doesn’t reflect every child in the world, but it does give us a unique insight into how kids are reading and what’s going on in the world of children’s literature.

While I agree with the study that the amount of extra time they had during the lockdown has contributed to their improved reading habits, I also think that there are other issues at play here.

For example, I think that the fact that kids couldn’t go outside and learn by playing made them want to enter into an imaginary world. While TV shows can help, there’s no better way to transport yourself to a fantasy world than reading a good book.

So, I think that the lockdown has definitely impacted on the choice of books that kids read. However, I also think that there are other factors that have pushed kids into the arms of more complex and challenging novels.

For example, I definitely reckon that the recent social situation has pushed kids to read more widely, and to choose books that explore a more diverse range of topics. The Hate You Give, in particular, is about racial inequality. Considering the BLM protests and recent increased media focus on the murders of innocent black individuals at the hands of the police (it’s been happening for decades, but it’s only really since 2020 that they’ve been the focus of public outrage and extensive, critical media coverage), it’s clear that these factors have influenced children’s choices.

Also, another thing to remember is that while kids choose what they want to read, it’s often the parents and other relatives who buy books for them and help to influence their choices. After all, they’re the ones that have the money, particularly when the kids are too young to have their own jobs or earn significant pocket money.

Therefore, I feel like the recent social unrest has also been, at least partially, responsible for the change in children’s reading habits. It’s led their parents to provide them with a wider variety of reading materials on different topics. The increased focus on diversity in today’s society, which is frankly long overdue, is driving parents to purchase a wider range of authors and topics.

That’s how it goes with both younger kids, as their parents and guardians tend to purchase their books. Older children and teenagers tend to be exposed to more TV and have access to their own cash, so they’re even more likely to be influenced by factors such as social change. Therefore, it’s understandable that young adult books such as The Hate You Give are more popular now.

I also reckon that another issue that’s changed the way children read is what I’m terming ‘screen fatigue’. After months of having to do their schooling online and spending hours everyday staring at screens, I think that many kids are probably sick and tired of staring at screens. I don’t have kids myself, but I do know a lot of people who do, and I know that between virtual schooling, playing video games and watching endless TV, they’re a bit tired of screens.

They all want to play outside and spend time in the real world. That’s why I think that books, particularly longer books, are more popular with kids right now. Children want to spend more time doing cool stuff, but between poor weather (it’s the UK) and the quarantine restrictions, they’ve been stuck indoors with limited options. Long books give kids a unique opportunity to dive into a new world and stay there.

With shorter books, you don’t really get the chance to immerse yourself in the novel’s setting and plot before it’s all over again and you have to start a new book. That’s why longer, more complex books and series are ideal when you’re looking to get away from it, which today’s kids definitely are.

Ultimately, I think that the lockdown has definitely had a major impact on children’s reading, and adult’s reading for that matter. It’s changed all of our lives in so many different ways, and I’m sure that it’s affected our reading habits- I know it has changed mine. However, I think that as the world is changing and kids are being exposed to more turmoil and social change from a young age, there are other factors that have impacted on the reading habits of kids in 2021.

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