This is the second guest post from our 2021 Reading Australia Fellow, Edwina West. Read her first article for an introduction to aliteracy, or visit the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund to learn more about the Reading Australia Fellowship for Teachers of English and Literacy.
In my last post I wrote about the worrying decline in reading for pleasure and the implications of this trend for young people. Any consideration of growing aliteracy – the state of being able to read, but choosing not to – automatically begs the question: ‘What do we know about the habits of young Australians when they do read?’ This has been the focus of my investigation over the last few weeks.
The work of Dr Margaret K. Merga sheds a great deal of light on this topic, and after reading her comprehensive and incredibly practical book Reading Engagement for Tweens and Teens: What Would Make Them Read More? (2018, Libraries Unlimited), my mind is brimming with ideas. Dr Merga refers to the findings of her study, the Western Australian Study in Children’s Book Reading (WASCBR), which provides invaluable insights into the reading habits of young people across multiple areas. For instance, the study investigated how young people chose what to read in the first place – and not all the reasons were sound (from selection based on the colour of the book cover, to no strategy at all)! But some strategies, such as ‘supported choice’, ask both teachers and parents to consider their role in guiding children to read (and to enjoy doing so). Dr Merga provides real, research-based strategies that can be implemented to assist children in their reading choices. In my Fellowship research, I would like to examine the role of this supported choice further.
In 2017, Macquarie University and the Australia Council for the Arts conducted an extensive survey known as Reading the reader: A survey of Australian reading habits. One interesting trend identified was that most young people did not consciously choose to read books by Australian authors, with only 12% stating that they liked them. This was notably different to adults aged 50 and over, who seemed to actively choose to read Australian writing. These generational trends are certainly intriguing, and it does make me wonder why deliberate consideration of Australian texts is not as important to young readers.
Moving forward, I await with anticipation the exciting research coming out of Deakin University, Discovering a ‘Good Read’: Pathways to reading for Australian teens in a digital age. This project will investigate what Australian youth like to read, and how they go about finding it!