It’s time to stop shaming teens for their reading choices

Reading for pleasure shouldn’t be valued less than reading for education

Image by: Ali Safadi

Though the kids who were obsessed with the Harry Potter books have now grown up, they never grew out of the fantasy genre.

The Harry Potter series and the knowledge of its entire world cultivated my reading addiction. However, I found when I reached middle school, teachers and other adults were quick to turn me away from the fantasy genre I loved so dearly in favour of more “intellectual” literature.

Classics like To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride and Prejudice, and Animal Farm quickly adorned my shelves. Though these texts offered literary brilliance, they gradually dimmed my love of reading for pleasure.

I found my love again through BookTok, a popular community on TikTok that discusses and recommends books. On BookTok, books are recommended by teens and for teens. It was because of this app I began to pick up fantasy again.

Instead of the conventional literary diet dictated by teachers, teens now have access to new recommendations in a variety of genres, predominantly fantasy and romance, through TikTok.

New titles such as Fourth Wing, which has been on the New York Times Bestsellers List for 27 weeks as of Nov. 19 , make up the majority of book sales—all thanks to social media. Four of the top five books on the paperback trade fiction list owe their popularity to platforms such as BookTok.

However, this transition hasn’t been universally embraced. Instead of adults and other readers welcoming the new demographic, they immediately judge teens’ choice to read contemporary novels of different genres.

Fantasy novels that aren’t The Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones and romance novels that aren’t The Notebook or Pride and Prejudice are immediately deemed childish or inferior simply because their target audiences aren’t readers with extensive literary backgrounds. These novels are more accessible introductions to a genre, but that doesn’t make them any less important.

The Hunger Games is an example of one of the most popular young adult series that introduces young readers to more complex themes in literature. Suzanne Collins’ series provides articulate commentary on society and class in a way that’s accessible to young adults. Despite its depth, it’s often dismissed when compared to the impact of other dystopian novels such as The Handmaid’s Tale simply because it’s labeled for the young adult audience.

Beyond societal commentary, novels that don’t explicitly tackle societal issues play a vital role in nurturing a love for reading among young adults. These books serve as stepping stones, paving the way for future exploration of dense classics and the greatest works of literature.

In the age of social media giving teens access to the issues of the world around them, it’s important these young readers have an escape. Reading helps to remove yourself from any issues you or your broader society are facing, and focus on the issues of characters in a story instead. Many young people find entering worlds of dragons and swoon-worthy romance distracts them from our world, and gives them a break from scrolling on their phones.

With reading and buying books a dying habit, and many people choosing social media over literature, we should be promoting reading of any genre, including those that are for pleasure.


BookTok, Fantasy, Harry Potter, Reading

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  • As soon as I learnt to read I was hooked. I couldn’t understand why we kept reading the same book, I wanted more words, more stories, all sorts of stories. Seventy years later I still read all sorts and have an interest in a wide range of subjects.
    Never restrict the choice of books for children, or the quantity. If you do you’ll restrict their brains and desire to learn.

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