THE THREE FACES OF MG READERS

The range of MG books this or any year is immense. You’ll find literary masterpieces right next to silly bare thin plots. Both are needed. Book publishers do a good job of making sure their title list contains books for all groups.

As a teacher, mentor, and now a writer for this age group, I have observed three distinct types of readers 8 -13 years in age. Authors can take note of these categories, and if wide readership is what they’re pursuing they’d best have a fast moving story with intriguing characters.

INTENSE This reader devours books like a favorite meal. They know what they’re going 9i4A55xiEto read next and the next one beyond that and the next one beyond that. Their library card has ruffled edges and bookshelves at home are stuffed full of their favorites. They gravitate toward books with vivid descriptions and they often become emotionally tied to a character, talking about this fictional person for days on end. Length of the story is of no concern and lights out time for this reader is often a long drawn out ordeal. They just have to read one more chapter. I’d estimate 15% of MG kids fit this description.

cropped-cropped-istock_000025885857small26.jpgCASUAL This next young person enjoys reading, but it doesn’t overshadow their other activities. They’ll read a chapter or two per day, but no more. They like adventure type stories with humor but not ones that are filled with unnecessary backstory or dialog. If a story drags early they have no problem tossing it aside for something better. They follow trends and if something is popular they’re in. This category would make up the largest percentage of readers – around 75%.

ERRATIC The closest this girl or boy gets to a book is to use one for support of aPreteen Boy Expressions - Shocked wobbly table leg. They’ll only read if it is for homework or if parents make them read the dreaded one chapter per day. The book had better be funny with lots of action, drawings are a plus, and short chapters rule their world. Long descriptions will leave them bleary eyed. They can never find their library card much less want to visit one. When they do visit, their first stop is the DVD shelf. About one in ten kids fit this category… maybe more in your neck of the woods.

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I was definitely in the  CASUAL category during my growing up years. Now I read a wide variety of books to become a better writer and to find the best ones for kids. I have 8-10 books I hope to get to in July. Happy reading no matter what category you place yourself in.

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...writing middle grade novels.
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9 Responses to THE THREE FACES OF MG READERS

  1. diegosdragon says:

    Interesting segmentation (definitely something Mr. Spock would say). I’ve always written what I love, and I don’t if know I could pick a target audience like casual readers and mold a book for them. I just don’t think it would come out right. Too bad for me with such a huge percentage of readers falling into that category.

    I’ve written one page in the first book of what might be my next middle grade series. The first line is, “I didn’t want to out there.” It pertains to an unfortunate adventure during my childhood. I’ve been scratching out notes about how this factual remembrance might meld into a fantasy adventure. At this stage it’s just fun. As long as writing remains so, I will continue to engage (Jean Luc Picard).

  2. diegosdragon says:

    Interesting segmentation (definitely something Mr. Spock would say). I’ve always written what I love, and I don’t know if I could pick a target audience like casual readers and mold a book for them. I just don’t think it would come out right. Too bad for me with such a huge percentage of readers falling into that category.

    I’ve written one page in the first book of what might be my next middle grade series. The first line is, “I didn’t want to go out there.” It pertains to an unfortunate adventure during my childhood. I’ve been scratching out notes about how this factual remembrance might become a fantasy adventure. At this stage it’s just fun. As long as writing remains so, I will continue to engage (Jean Luc Picard).

  3. Oh my Lord, I have ALWAYS been the “intense” style reader. Once when I was in second grade, I was so deep in a book I didn’t hear the fire alarm go off! (Thankfully, it was just a drill.)

    Ellie | On the Other Side of Reality

  4. I was certainly more intense than casual, but not as intense as some. I’m a little surprised the percentage isn’t greater for the erratic group, but then I never worked with middle-graders. I certainly experienced a higher percentage of erratic readers when teaching high school with only an occasional intense reader. Very interesting post.

    • I’m sure my unscientific percentage fluctuates greatly from one level to the next. I blossomed into a reader in high school but some wait until they are older. Thanks for your thoughts.

  5. Guess I feel into the “intense” category. Interesting post. I read age-appropriate books into junior high, but then leaped into adult books, biographies mainly. Even Edgar Cayce. Not sure they had a YA fiction category in the 60s.

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