Do Kids Really Fear Thick Books?

 

by

Rachel Seigel

Last week we wrapped up our trade show season, which saw us doing book displays/selling shows all across Ontario every week for the last 7 weeks. At these shows, we display about 1000 of the newest, hottest fiction, picture book, and non-fiction titles of the season, many of which are personal favourites that I intent to hand sell to our teacher librarian customers.

Sometimes, despite my enthusiasm and best efforts, a book simply flops. There can be many reasons for this- an unappealing cover, too specialized a topic, poor presentation, etc. But of all the reasons that a book doesn’t sell, it drives me nuts when the thickness of the book is the reason that my customers give for not purchasing it. “Kids don’t read thick books”, they tell me, but is that really true?

If you examine the page counts of some of today’s best-selling children’s novels, I’d have to say that this is not the case. Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series are definitely thick books, averaging at least 4-500 pages per book. Judging by high volume of sales we continue to experience on these titles, the thickness of the book is obviously not a problem with kids.

Other Bestselling series such as Chris D’Lacey’s Last Dragon Chronicles are well over the 300-400 page mark, and of course, some of the Harry Potter books were 600+ pages.

Why then, do adults think that kids won’t read a thick book? My theory is that it’s more a case of adults making an assumption (albeit a false one) that if they find a thick book daunting, kids will too. I also think that this stems from a time issue- that knowing that they likely won’t have time to read it themselves, and therefore, it’s an automatic rejection.

Personally, and feel free to dispute me on this, I think that a kid who is a reader will read anything that looks good and interests them regardless of the thickness. If a kid is not a reader, they are as likely to not read a thin book as a thick one. Books are an extremely personal and subjective choice. Not every book is for every reader (adult or kid), regardless of size. But judging the worthiness of a book purely by it’s page count seems no more reasonable than judging a dog by it’s breed, or a person by their skin colour.

So next time you are thinking about purchasing a book for a library or a classroom, or for the child in your life, before you reject a book because it’s thick, take the time to open it up, read a few pages, and give it a chance to engage you! You never know- you might just discover a treasure!

Rachel Seigel is the K-12 buyer at wholesaler S&B Books in Mississauga, Ontario. She also maintains a personal blog at http://readingtimbits.blogspot.com and can be found on Twitter as @rachelnseigel.

20 Responses to Do Kids Really Fear Thick Books?

  1. Amie Kaufman
    Amie Kaufman Dec 12 2012 at 5:21 am #

    Man, when I was little I thought the thicker, the better! Then again, look what I grew up to do….

    • Rachel Seigel Dec 12 2012 at 9:16 am #

      I’m with you Aime! I always thought so too! I read so fast, I wanted thicker books to prolongue the reading experience a bit longer.

  2. jeffo Dec 12 2012 at 6:11 am #

    “a kid who is a reader will read anything that looks good and interests them regardless of the thickness.” Absolutely, Rachel. Given the assumptions many adults make about kids, it’s a wonder we’re even printing books for them at all! Yet they keep selling, and kids keep reading.

    • Rachel Seigel Dec 12 2012 at 9:17 am #

      Thank you! That’s exactly what I’m getting at. If there were no kids who wanted to read thicker books, sales would prove that pretty quickly. And yet, they do sell!

  3. MaryB Dec 12 2012 at 8:30 am #

    Sadly, I must disagree — a bit, anyway. As a public high school (and former middle school) English teacher, I’ve taught ’em all. The students who are readers, the ones who both vocally and quietly enjoy books, will gladly pick up thicker books and share them with their friends. This is about 20 percent (30% during those really great years) of my students. The other 80 percent either proclaim their dislike of reading (my heart shatters) or only read what’s assigned to them. Most claim not to like thick books. Many refuse to pick up thicker books, even if peers have told them how wonderful it is and that they have to read it. They don’t give many books a chance.

    The area where I teach is about 80 percent free-and-reduced (meaning they get school fees and meals either for free or at a greatly reduced rate), and education is not always a priority at home. This attitude definitely influences the way these teens view books and reading, no matter what the size or interest level.

    That being said, if I can get them to start a thick book, one that I know is a fabulous read, one that fits their interests with snappy dialogue and interesting characters, many will keep reading it and enjoy it. The trick is to get them past those first chapters and to the point where they can’t put the book down, no matter what the size. We’re working on it–one student at a time.

    • Rachel Seigel Dec 12 2012 at 9:14 am #

      I completely agree with you that kids are less likely to be readers in homes where education isn’t a priority, and this would definitely make a thick book seem daunting. It feels sometimes like entire schools filled with non-readers are becoming more commonplace, and this is what is most frightening!

  4. Anna Boll Dec 12 2012 at 8:40 am #

    I’ve found that students who do conquer “thick” books are extremely proud, will often boast about their accomplishment, and ask for another challenge. That is the draw of the series. The reader is already invested in the characters and their world. (ala Riordan or Rowling)

    • Rachel Seigel Dec 12 2012 at 9:15 am #

      You’ve definitely hit on something there- it’s the characters that draw the kids into these books, and that keep them plowing through the hundreds of pages!

      • Aaron Barrett Dec 12 2012 at 6:50 pm #

        I agree. If there is a great story line and the characters are full of life, the thickness of the book does not matter to a child.

  5. Carrie-Anne Dec 12 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    I had hyperlexia at three years old, and the first book I read was Grimms’ Fairy Tales, so I’ve always strongly preferred thick books, even in elementary school. Thick books excited me; I was more inclined to pass up thin books. Partly for that reason, I graduated to adult novels at age 14 and pretty much never read any teen lit of my generation after that point. Usually (but not always), I find that a lot of thin books, especially nowadays, are so fast-paced and focused on plot that things like world-building and character development often fall by the wayside. A book that’s over a certain length doesn’t automatically mean it’s too long, overwritten, or two or three books disguised as one. It might mean it covers a longer timeframe and that the writer deliberately planned it at that length.

    I write and read historical, so I’ve always expected historicals, even for the YA category, to be very long. When I see an overly thin historical, and it’s set over a longer period and not just a few months or a year, I seriously wonder how much research went into the story and how passionate the writer really is about the genre. Two of the historicals I just read for my final project in my YA Lit class were originally published in England and Germany, and it kind of made me sad to think about how books of that length and depth would probably have a much harder time finding an agent or publisher in the States these days.

  6. Alexa Y. Dec 12 2012 at 4:49 pm #

    As a child, page counts never mattered to me. I would read just about anything, as long as the story was gripping and appealing enough!

  7. Claudia McCarron Dec 12 2012 at 6:54 pm #

    I totally agree with this post. I loved (and love!) big, thick books as long as I liked the story.

  8. JQ Trotter Dec 12 2012 at 9:59 pm #

    When I was a kid, I always felt way prouder of myself if I read a thicker book. Sometimes I think it’s probably intimidating but once it’s done I was always happier.

  9. Caitlyn Dec 12 2012 at 10:18 pm #

    When I was in elementary school, before I started reading a lot, big books did seem a bit scary. But once I started reading more, I liked reading big books because I saw it as a challenge to finish the book 🙂

  10. Kit Grindstaff Dec 13 2012 at 8:57 am #

    The publishing industry’s guidelines have supported the “thick books are a no-no” edict, telling would-be authors that MG word count should be between 40-70k – max ever ever 90k – and YA upward of 50k. Thank goodness some editors don’t bat an eyelid at over 100k, and more and more longer titles are breaking the mold. Most YAs I’ve read recently are up in the 400 pages, and I see MGs up in that range too.

  11. Christa Dec 14 2012 at 12:38 pm #

    When I was little I always picked the thickest books I could find. I didn’t have my own money (being a kid and all) so I needed my books to last longer to make it to the next instance I could beg a new one off my mom. Plus I read quite quickly as a child and I wanted to be invested for long periods of time, rather than flying through a book in one sitting

  12. E.Maree Dec 16 2012 at 6:52 am #

    As a kid, buying books with my own meager pocket money, I always went for the thicker ones. I was a voracious reader, and I wanted as much ‘value’ for money as I could get, so large books or combined books were brilliant. I still have a giant hardback collecting all of Phillip Pullman’s ‘The Dark Materials’ that I was incredibly excited to buy.

  13. Claire M. Caterer Dec 25 2012 at 11:40 am #

    I recall a bookseller telling me once that certain kids requested thick books–or rather, if a certain type of book wasn’t very thick, they felt cheated. “Kids expect a big, hurky book if it’s a fantasy,” she told me. They wanted to know they would be completely immersed in a world and get the most out of it.

  14. Jessie Devine Jan 6 2013 at 9:16 pm #

    When I was a kid, I was excited to find a really thick, good book! It meant the story wouldn’t be over so soon!

  15. Anonymous Aug 9 2013 at 7:42 pm #

    I am actually a kid and have been looking for really thick books that are appropriate. I looked at the wheel of time but nope not quite right. I’ve read the Septimus heap series Gregor series Harry Potter series. Books for me have to be at least 800+ pages or else I read them before you can say Hey!

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