Wednesday 1 April 2015

What do children say about what they read? Part 2 - by Miriam Craig

Welcome back to the results of the ingenious and dastardly reading questionnaire I sent out to 16 children a few weeks ago. Background: With no children loitering in my immediate vicinity, I decided to use people I know off Twitter to help me learn what goes on in their offspring’s minds when it comes to books and reading. The children ranged in age from 8 to 13. Many of the results surprised me. If you haven’t read Part 1, you can read it here.

Note: This survey is extraordinarily unscientific. Let’s embrace that.

And now for the second half of the questionnaire!
     1.  Would you still read a book if it was about a character who was a bit younger than you?
Almost all said ‘yes’ – only a few were more circumspect. This surprised me. I’d been led to believe that children always want to read ‘up.’ Some of the answers:
Hanna, 8: I don't know, they're all older than me, but yes.
Elsa, 8: Yes, it doesn't affect the story.
Joshua, 10: Don’t know, haven’t come across that but probably not.
Indigo, 11: Yes, but only if the character has decent character development throughout the book. [Parent adds: These were her words.]
Morris, 12: I would mind because I'd think it was some kind of child book. [sic]
Jess, 13: Yes, depending on what age the book was aimed at.
     2.  Do you mostly read on your own, or with your parents / brothers and sisters?
When I received the replies I felt a bit silly for asking this question. I’d asked it because I kept hearing about people reading as a family at bedtime, even with older children. All the children said, ‘On my own’ apart from:
Elsa, 8: On my own, it’s better.
Joshua, 10: On my own, a bit with Mum (occasionally to my littlest sister, who’s 5).
Bill, 10: I read all ways with different people.
Morris, 12: I'm an independent reader, thank you. And alone in my room, if that's what the question means.
Indigo, 11: I read independently into the late hours of the night. I am the vampire book reader.

     3.  Which is your favourite genre?
Here’s a list of the genres that were mentioned, in order of popularity, with the number of times they came up:
Adventure – 8
Fantasy – 5
Humour – 5
Detective/mystery – 3
Sci-fi – 3
Action – 2
Historical – 2
Animals – 2
Added to this there was one mention each for Mythological, Magic, School, Thriller, Romance and Horror. (You could argue that Action and Thriller could be lumped in with Adventure, making it an even stronger first place.) Here are some of the answers:
Kit, 13: Adventure, fantasy, mythology, ancient history.
Faith, 10: Animals, magic and adventure. All three is best!
Joseph, 10: Funny books.
Francesca, 12: Fantasy adventure, sci-fi, funny books, romance.
Bill, 10: A mix between horror and comedy and books which make me feel scared. I kind of like all types though.
     4.  Do you mind if the main character is a girl or a boy?
Of the 15 who answered, ten children said they didn’t mind. Three said they wanted or would prefer to have a main character of their own gender. One said they wouldn’t mind ‘much.’ And one said ‘it depends.’ Some of the answers:
Elsa, 8: Yes, I prefer it to be a girl because I'm girly.
Joshua, 10: Prefer a boy but doesn’t always have to be.
Indigo, 11: Not at all, one of my fav characters in a cat book series is a boy.
Morris, 12: No, that's sexist! [Miriam adds: I love you, Morris.]
Joseph, 10: Would rather have a boy because then I would understand it more.

     5.  Are there any books you wouldn’t want your friends to see you reading? What kind?
Eight children out of 15 said ‘no.’ Some of the children who elaborated on their answer said:
Hanna, 8: Rainbow Magics, which I sometimes read for nightmares.
Joshua, 10: Picture books.
Rachel, 8: Really short books.
Indigo, 11: I wouldn't want my friends to see me reading Warrior Cats books [Parents adds: Her big favs!] because they would mock me for reading cat books all the time, and also I wouldn't want them to see me reading a young adult book because most of my friends only read books for younger kids and might be shocked or disapprove.
Sebastian, 9: No. I have my opinions, they can have theirs.
Bill, 10: Books about princesses I suppose – but none of my friends mind what I read – so no actually.
Alexander, 11: The CHERUB series, because they’re YA and have romance and kissing. I don’t like that myself but put up with it to get to the action. [Miriam adds: That’s exactly how *I* feel about YA!]

     6.  Would you read a book if one of your parents said they loved it when they were your age?
Nine out of 15 said a confident ‘Yes!’ Five said something along the lines of a doubtful, ‘I’d give it a try.’ But Morris (12) gave my favourite answer, which was, ‘I don't trust Mum's taste because she says filled pasta is awesome but it's not, I hate it. So, no.’ Let’s hope Morris’ mother will one day win back his trust. Some of the other answers:
Faith, 10: I've already done that lots of times.
Rachel, 8: I would give it a go because you know what you’re talking about Mummy!
Indigo, 11: Yes, I would, because sometimes I find older books have more character development and adventure than rubbish modern ones. [Miriam: The hearts of published authors up and down the country die a little.]

     7.  What’s the best snack to eat while reading?
OK, so this wasn’t the most serious question. But still – one I felt compelled to ask. Snacks mentioned were popcorn, Jaffa cakes, custard creams, chocolate, jelly, and cheese strings. Rachel (8) chose sandwiches because ‘you can hold them in one hand’ and Bill (10) chose crisps or ‘something which isn’t sticky so the pages don’t get messy.’ Credit has to go to Joseph (10) for choosing an apple, and Joshua (10) who never eats snacks while reading. They are shining examples to us all. Siblings Alexander (11), Francesca (12) and Sebastian (9) all claimed not to snack while reading by personal choice, but it later emerged in email discussion with Parent that they aren’t ALLOWED to eat snacks while reading. But Parent seems to have persuaded them this was their own idea, so it’s all good. Other answers:
Indigo, 11: I find that I concentrate better if I eat nothing. Maybe a biscuit.
Jess, 13: Cheese. Why?
Morris, 12: Doritos. [Parent adds: ‘Poses with mouth open.’]

     8.  Where are you usually when you read?
Bed or bedroom – 8 mentions
Everywhere – 4 extremely enthusiastic mentions
Living room – 4 mentions
School – 3 mentions
Some lovely answers:
Faith, 10: I read everywhere – EVERYWHERE!
Rachel, 8: Kitchen, bedroom, lounge. [Parent adds: This is from the girl who reads while she’s walking down stairs.]
Indigo, 11: I read in my bedroom as a vampire of the night, but at school I read at my table. I could read anywhere if I had to. Even in a tree. Which I have actually done before.
Morris, 12: In bed under my duvet.
Jess, 13: Bedroom (yawn).

     9.  Do you ever leave reviews online? If so, which websites?
The answer to this was an almost universal ‘No.’ I found this quite depressing. I want to live in a world where all children are fiercely engaged with book culture, leaving reviews and interacting with their favourite authors online. The children in this group who left reviews were brother and sister Joshua (10) and Rachel (8), who wrote them on, and Francesca (12) who has written two reviews on a book’s dedicated website. And there was also:
Indigo, 11: I don't do many reviews but when I do, it appears on my website,
Morris, 12: I'm lazy, I don't write reviews. But sometimes Mum makes me write one for our kids' blog,

     10.  And now we come to the final question (and my personal favourite): if you were to write a book, what kind of book would it be?
Kit, 13: Something about Viking culture and Norse mythology; maybe an adventure about setting sail to explore the world.
Molly, 11: Fantasy / sci-fi.
Hanna, 8: Fantasy adventure.
Faith, 10: I don't know, but it would be a fun book.
Elsa, 8: A magical book.
Joshua, 10: A mystery story.
Jess, 13: A book with a nice cover…and…I don’t know.
Joseph, 10: It would probably be a football book.
Alexander, 11: I’d write the kind of book I like to read, namely an action thriller.
Francesca, 12: I’d write a mix of fantasy, sci-fi, comedy and romance. 
Sebastian, 9: Action adventure.
Rachel, 8: I’ve already written a book about a boy who goes to school and falls into a book and has a surprising adventure.
Indigo, 11: I have already written many books, and Mum has published some of them on Kindle under my name Indigo Haynes. When I write my next one, I might write about woodland creatures of Britain, e.g. deer, foxes, rabbits, badgers and birds etc.
Morris, 12: Zombies.
Bill, 10: A horror fantasy book which makes people feel weird. [Miriam adds: I want to read that.]
Eddie, 8: A book about a poo. I’VE ANSWERED ENOUGH QUESTIONS.

Well, quite.

A massive thank you to all the kids who answered the silly questions, as well as all the child-rearers who got the kids to sit still and answer the silly questions.

There was a lot more I wanted to say in this post and in Part 1, because I wanted to comment on EVERY SINGLE answer. Please, instead, add your comments below. What did you think?

I’m hoping to repeat this experiment with different children, and perhaps different questions. If there are any questions you think I should ask, put them in the comments. And if you have a child aged 8-13 who might like to take part, please email or contact me on Twitter.

Twitter: @miriamhcraig
On Instagram: @miriamhcraig


  1. You have asked only good readers, and I'm betting some of them are reading YA already, judging by the way they talk. :-)

    1. Yes, you're right! If you have a look at Part 1, at the beginning I say a bit about that.

  2. Another brilliant read! And so funny :-)

  3. Ah, yes, I see, you asked the children of writers you meet on Twitter. Still, there ARE local schools if you ever want a broader variety of responses. Meanwhile, you do seem to have had fun with this. :-)

    1. This is the first time I've ever done this questionnaire, Sue, so it was a bit of an experiment. I'd love to broaden it in the future.

  4. Those children are a HOOT! You're funny too ... and the snacks. You had to ask a question about snacks.

    1. Well of course! I don't know why that's strange.

  5. This questionnaire is brilliant Miriam. I love it. The snack question is inspired. (Snacks are where kindles/e readers come into their own - very easy to eat and read with one as long as you have bit of kitchen roll ready to wipe grease from page turning finger)
    This would make a brilliant conference video? What do you think?