A study of the reading habits of 11 to 14-year-olds has revealed that their favourite reading material is Heat magazine, the celebrity gossip mag. The top 10 also includes a mixture of reading books (Harry Potter (5), Anne Frank's diary (6), Anthony Horowitz (8), The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (9) and the 'Confessions of Georgia Nicolson' books by Louise Rennison (10=)) and reading online (song lyrics (2nd= with reading Bliss magazine), computer game cheats (3), "my own blog" and fan fiction (4), film scripts (7) and BBC Online (10=).
The Most Loathed Reads list includes some you'd expect: Homework comes out top, Shakespeare second and "Books of over 100 pages" third, adding weight to the notion that kids nowadays suffer from short attention spans. But most kids books have been shorter than their adult counterparts for years: the standard length for library fodder used to be 80,000 words for an adult novel and 40-60,000 words for a kid's novel; many of these were edited down for reprinting in paperback where the page count was rarely above 128 pages.
The Beano makes the most loathed list at #7 which I find most disappointing. I'm guessing that most 11 to 14-year-olds think they've outgrown The Beano as most of us did; by the age of 14 I was heavily into reading science fiction novels and I was spending more on books than comics (I was reading Action and Vulcan at that time, plus the magazine Speed & Power).
"Loath" is a really strong adverse reaction. In 1976, when I was 14, comics were still fairly prevalent; there had been something of a crash in the early 1970s but there were still a variety of boys' comics (Valiant, Battle Picture Weekly, Victor, Wizard, War, Battle and Commando picture libraries). Most of us had grown up on comics and had simply outgrown some of them. They certainly didn't have the negative connotations that they seem to have these days.
Mind you, it's a weird list and I suspect it was not a "free vote" (as they say in Parliament): one of the dislikes is music scores... and how many children have even seen a music score, let alone learned to hate them. My guess is that Beano was part of a pre-compiled list: "Which of the following do you love or loath?" I just can't imagine that, even in a group of 1,340 kids, enough of them have read music scores or maps or the Financial Times to have made an informed view of their merits.
This is post #666. Maybe it's not surprising that, on a comic-loving blog, we learn that kids hate comics.
You can find the full top 10 lists here.
(* Beano characters © D. C. Thomson Ltd.)