We Need to Talk About… promoting books to teens #Discussion

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We Need to Talk About…is my new discussion post where I ask the blogosphere (that’s you guys) for opinions/advice/rants on anything from ‘how do some bloggers read so many books?’ to ‘how do you rate books?’. 

This week I want your thoughts on teen magazines and why they don’t seem to have book review sections…

A few weeks ago I was in my local large newsagents and decided to have a look through the teen magazines to see if any of them featured book reviews, and I didn’t find one. I was completely shocked! Sure, some of them promote good body image and safe sex practices which is good, but not one of them promoted reading. Considering how huge the YA market is, that really confuses me.

Many of you will know by now that I work in a prison library. Part of my job is to promote reading to reluctant readers and I get to see first-hand the undeniably strong links between crime and illiteracy. So many of the guys in prison that can read, read only non-fiction and when I ask them why they don’t like fiction, the general consensus is because ‘it’s not real’, ‘too unbelievable’ and they ‘can’t follow it’. I wonder why they’ve never enjoyed a good fiction book and why they can’t see what a great escape (pun intended) from prison life it could be. 

There seems to be a lot of focus on reading to babies and children which is vital too, but where do teens get their love of reading from if it hasn’t already been passed on? I’m not knocking schools at all, but I never wanted to read anything the school set me, and reading definitely wasn’t seen as cool. I went through a good few years of not reading because I thought my friends would think I was sad or a geek or whatever. 

One thing sticks in my mind though. I remember that one of the popular girl magazines that me and my friends read religiously often had a free book attached. I still have my copy of Secret Vampire by L.J Smith from that. And that one little freebie made reading cool again. 

Looking at today’s teen (11+) magazines, it saddens me that they don’t seem to promote all the amazing things going on in the YA book industry. 

Is it simply because the internet has taken over and is a better place to promote reading and bring fangirls (and boys!) together? Or are magazines missing a trick here? Maybe they think reading isn’t cool but endless make-up ads are. It’s sad if that’s all that sells. 

What do you think? Should books be featured in teen magazines more? Or do you think they are and I’ve just not seen the right ones? Do any of you write YA reviews for magazines?

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13 thoughts on “We Need to Talk About… promoting books to teens #Discussion

  1. I don’t read teen magazines anymore, but I don’t remember reading one single article featuring books when I was a teenager myself. I think most teens use the Internet now, so you have a better chance of finding your audience here, but I find it sad that old means of advert and communication simply ‘forget’ about the importance of reminding teens that reading is cool and actually fun. All I see is clothes, make up and safe sex advice. This being said, I haven’t seen a teenager holding a magazine in ages.

    • So true. Other than being a teenager myself (mannnny moons ago), I don’t really have any insight into what teenage girls like, so while I was writing this I asked my friend who has a 12 year old daughter if she reads any magazines and she said no, never has. I guess it’s just not a thing any more.

      But then, there are still 3 or so big teen mags aimed at girls going and all they seem to have in them are sex and make-up advice, and agony pages. I really think there’s a place for books in them!

      Or maybe, there should just be a magazine for all the YA fangirls out there, teens or not. I would buy it, obviously. LOL.

      • I feel old now. I loved reading magazines when I was a teenager!
        I’d buy it too! I am so tired of reading the same things over and over again in magazines.

  2. When I was in middle school I used to read a (pre-?) teen magazine (although I can’t remember its name) that had a section of book recommendations in each issue. I know I read at least a couple of the suggestions, and that was when I was only a casual reader. I’m surprised that other teen magazines don’t have book recommendation sections, because that was one of my favorite parts!

    Although maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. Reading was never “cool,” especially not in middle school and high school. It seems like the point of a lot of teen magazines is teaching girls how to be “cool,” so they ignore a lot of things that have been labelled “uncool” even if those labels are arbitrary. It probably has something to do with the fact that print magazines don’t have as much power as they used to, so they’re afraid to do anything that might make their readers think they’re irrelevant. It’s a shame, though. There are so many amazing teen and young adult books out there! I wish there wasn’t such a stigma around reading.

    • Yeah, I think the whole ‘cool’ thing is a massive issue for teens. But I would have thought that with the likes of The Hunger Games, Divergent, and the Maze Runner (amongst others) all being huge franchises that books should be considered cool these days and that they would want to cash in on it.

  3. What an interesting post and what a good point you make – being a little older than you and thinking back to the magazines I read, there were no book reviews but then at that time YA as a genre simply hadn’t been invented although there were a few (notably Anne Fine) whose books were for this age group. I was keen on promoting books to my children as babies and toddlers because I foolishly thought if you didn’t do it then all would be lost – I now don’t believe that, although it is harder with older kids but far from impossible especially with such a wide range of books aimed at this age group.

    • I definitely think you’re right to start early. It does seem much harder to convert older kids to reading!

      I guess I just don’t understand why YA isn’t more popular with the age group it’s actually written for.

      Although we all know that these days YA is written as much for adults as it is teens. I don’t think the genre started out that way though.

  4. You know … I’ve never thought terribly much about this, and now I’m wondering why it never occurred to me. You’re right in that for babies and children, the idea of promoting reading is plastered everywhere. But when I was a teen, the only time reading was really promoted was when we were asked to volunteer at Scholastic book sales at the elementary school. And that effort was really more about promoting community service than the books. :/

    I’m not sure that magazines are the way to do it anymore, but I definitely agree there should be more promo of books to teens in general. It’s all well and good that they’re pretty effectively marketed to people who are already avid readers, but the idea of reading in general isn’t EVER promoted.

    • I totally agree! I definitely think it’s something that should be tackled. I’m not sure who that responsibility should fall on though.

      Thanks for your thoughts ! 😆

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  7. What magazines include is mostly determined by what they can make money advertising (I used to work at one, and if an ad needed more space we had to shorten the articles). I am guessing that the big publishers don’t advertise in magazines.

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