On October 16, Children’s Book Council members from a variety of publishing houses gathered at the Goddard Riverside Community Center’s Lincoln Square Center in Manhattan for the teen session of “Who Put the C in CBC? Hearing Directly from the Children.” Coordinated with Goddard Riverside, the forum was the second in a three-part series in which panels of young readers talk about their book preferences and reading practices with publishing professionals. The first installment, in September, highlighted middle graders, and the date and location of the final event in the series have yet to be announced.
Due to a driving rainstorm, the original program had to be amended. Instead of the scheduled dozen teenagers from Goddard Riverside’s Options Program, a group of 11 attendees of the after school program, ranging in age from 9 to 11, served as the initial panelists. In a q&a session moderated by Beth Dunphe, Goddard Riverside’s deputy executive director of resource development and engagement, the students gamely shared their opinions on literature.
Across age and gender, the children said they enjoy graphic novels and want more of them; they did not express the same enthusiasm for biographies. About half of the students shared that they read outside of class, gathering book recommendations from friends, teachers, and their principal, and discovering new titles at school, the library, and websites such as Biblionasium.
Notably, the group espoused an overwhelming preference for reading about characters who are unlike themselves. The students perceive books as a mode to learn about other people in the world, their cultures, and what they do in life. One boy explained, “When you really think about it and place yourself in the book, it makes reality a little better.”
The second part of the program featured two 19-year-old Fordham students who serve as tutors at Goddard Riverside. When asked by Dunphe about their reading habits, Naomi Buchanan and Michelle Yoon indicated their preference for physical over digital copies. Regarding their favorite titles from childhood, the two identified stalwart classics. Buchanan said her favorite is To Kill a Mockingbird, while Yoon selected the Chronicles of Narnia. Speaking of legacy, the duo discussed the enduring popularity of series such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid, I Survived…, and Magic Tree House, which are still much sought-after by kids today.
Questions for the teens from the audience inevitably turned to social media. Acknowledging TikTok’s popularity among her young tutees, Yoon nonetheless expressed her dislike of the app, which she perceives as inane; she uses Instagram and calls Facebook “underappreciated” by teens. Meanwhile, Buchanan said she utilizes Facebook to keep up with older relatives, preferring Instagram and Twitter to connect with peers, while Snapchat is relegated to a minor channel of communication. Yoon discovers book recommendations from BookTubers and Bookstagrammers she doesn’t know personally, while Buchanan finds books to read from people she knows on her Instagram feed. Both conveyed a hesitance about reading TV or movie tie-ins; they are much more interested in reading novels that engage with contemporary social issues, especially involving characters who are their age or older.
CBC and Every Child a Reader executive director Carl Lennertz told PW after the event, “We are so grateful to Goddard Riverside for hosting our CBC Forum events, but mostly for their work every day serving the underserved communities of New York City, from pre-K to senior citizens.”