Chatting about Texts and Popular Culture with four young people

This week’s CLN647 blogging task was to interview a young person about the texts they like to read watch and engage with. I interviewed four (articulate, funny and happy) primary school students: two girls, aged 9 and 10 and two boys aged 11 and 12. Interviews were conducted in person and over Skype. I prepared the questions beforehand (I did a pilot test with Sam then tweaked it a little) and typed their answers in their own words while the interview was being conducted.

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Some of interviewee Sam’s book collection. Used with permission

The interviewees:

Carissa: 9 years old

Chloe: 10 years old

Reuben: 11 years old

Sam: 12 years old


What book are you currently reading?

Carissa: Treasure fever by Andy Griffiths

Chloe: After by Morris Gleitzman

Reuben: The Abdominal Snowman (a Choose Your Own Adventure book)

Sam: Eric Vale by Michal Gerard Bauer.


Who is your favourite author? Why? How did you find out about them?

Carissa: Megan McDonald. My cousin reads the books. Andy Griffiths. Because my brothers have the books.

Chloe: Morris Gleitzman and I found out about him from the school library — everybody was reading his books and I just started reading it and I found it really good. Lauren Child. She does these really good Ruby Redford books. I found out about that series because my friend was into them. I started reading it at the book shop and it was really good. Carole Wilkinson — my friend was reading the books and I got this voucher for the book shop and it stood out to me because my friend said it was really good. I started reading it and I just couldn’t stop reading. The Dragon Keeper series.

Reuben: Paul Jennings, I randomly picked an audio book from the library and it was Paul Jennings. It was really funny. Andy Griffiths: Everyone was reading his books at school.

Sam: Andy Griffiths. Because he is really funny. In grade 5 the teacher was reading the series to the class.


How do you choose books?

Carissa: From my favourite authors. I like looking at books with cool covers. I like to choose chapter books.

Chloe: I either get them from my friends are reading them or the cover looks cool and it pops out on the book shelf at the library.

Reuben: I usually read my favourite authors books. I look at the cover and look inside and try it out.

Sam: Kids section in library and shops. If they look good I read the blurb, flick through it. I like comics and books with pictures in it like Paul Jennings’ books. They make the book really good. I always get the next books in a series that I like. Sometimes my parents get me a book and I end up liking it.


How often do you read?

Carissa: I read every school day and also sometimes after school.

Chloe: I pretty much read every day at school and after school.

Reuben: A couple of times a week.

Sam: About 20 minutes every day, sometimes more if I have a new book. I like to read in bed at night.


Do you listen to audio books?

Carissa: Yes. I listen to Andy Griffiths once a week.

Chloe: Yes. I used to listen to them more often but now not as much. I prefer to read them now, unless I am sick, then I like listening to them.

Reuben: Yes. Every night. I like to listen to an audio book and then sometimes I read the Same book after. I like listening to Stig Wiems (narrator) and listening to my favourite author’s book.

Sam: Yes. I listen to them every night. I prefer audio books because you can relax and fall asleep to it and the narration can be really good.


Do you tell your friends about books you like?

Carissa: Sometimes

Chloe: Yes, most of the time.

Reuben: Yeah, a little bit.

Sam: Yes. I got nearly my whole class into the Big Nate series.


Do you know what books your friends read?

Carissa: I know what my friend’s favourite books are. They bring them in to school.

Chloe: Not really. Some of them.

Reuben: I know that my friend Gil is reading a Samurai book. My friend Jake is reading The Hunger Games at the moment.

Sam: Not really.

What is your favourite TV show?

Carissa: H2O Just Add Water, Dani’s Castle, Life With Boys, Adventure Time, Spongebob Squarepants,

Chloe:  iCarly, Get Smart.

Reuben: Doctor Who, Star Wars The Clone Wars, Spongebob Squarepants.

Sam: Doctor Who and Star Wars The Clone Wars and Adventure Time. I like watching documentaries.

Who is your favourite character and why?

Carissa: In Dani’s castle I like Esme because she usually pranks other people and scares them. In H20 I like Rikki because I like her personality.

Chloe: (skipped this question – doesn’t really have one)

Reuben: From Doctor Who, The Doctor. He is different and he can regenerate and he has two hearts and he is really smart. In the Clone Wars I like Obi Wan Kenobi just because I like his personality. In Spongebob I like Patrick the most because he is really funny.

Sam: I like characters that are funny like Patrick in Spongebob Squarepants and Jake in Adventure Time

How do you find out about your favourite TV shows?

Carissa: I see them on TV. I like watching ABC iview. And kids talk about TV shows at school.

Chloe: With iCarly, I was on a plane and there were TVs and one of the shows on there was iCarly. I just flick the TV channel and if it’s interesting I keep on watching it.

Reuben: With Doctor Who, my parents used to watch it. With Star Wars The Clone Wars I really liked The Star wars movies so I checked it out. Spongebob I saw it on TV once and I found it really funny and then I started getting into it.

Sam: My brother got Series one and two for his birthday (Star wars). My friends told me about Adventure Time. My mum and dad were watching Doctor Who. I discovered Spongebob myself.


Do you talk about TV shows with your friends at school?

Carissa: Sometimes. Stuff from ABC3.

Chloe: Sometimes.

Reuben: No, not really.

Sam: Almost once a day I hear someone talk about TV shows. Most of the time they are shows I don’t know.


What is your favourite movie?

Carissa: Scooby Doo, The Parent Trap (the new one), Judy moody and the Not Bummer Summer.

Chloe: Spy Kids movies.

Reuben: The Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies, because they are really funny. The Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies. I like the storylines and the characters.

Sam: Diary of a Wimpy kid movies and the marvel movies (Iron man, Spiderman, The Avengers, stuff like that.)

Do you buy or collect merchandise of your favourite books/shows/characters?

Carissa: Yes — posters and calendars,

Chloe: Yes — Little figurines or T-shirts with a character on it.

Reuben: Yes. Doctor Who: sonic screwdrivers, posters, books, few versions of the tardis. I like Minecraft vinyl figurines and posters. And t-shirts and I have a Minecraft hat.

Sam: I got a quilt cover of Star Wars. I like collecting character encyclopedias, sonic screwdrivers,

Do you go on Youtube? Favourite channels you follow?

Carissa: No.

Chloe: No.

Reuben: Yes. I watch Minecraft youtubes (Biffa, Monkeyfarm, Xisumavoid, Minecraft for dummies). I follow certain Minecraft channels. A lot of channels I watch play lots of other games, too. They make me want to play a lot more games.

Sam: I go on youtube all the time. Well, when my parents let me. I follow magic trick channels, and Minecraft video channels. Also other random links my friends send me, just usually funny stuff.

Do you know what popular culture is?

Carissa: It means heaps of people are into it.

Chloe: Culture that’s popular.

Reuben: Probably like the movies and TV shows that a lot of people watch and the books that a lot of people read.

Sam: Popular culture means things that are popular that people like (watch, read, do stuff).

What do you think is popular right now with kids your age?

Carissa: ABC 3

Chloe: handball.

Reuben: Well, mostly Minecraft. Like literally almost everyone in my class plays it. Computer games. Doctor Who is popular too. XFactor and The Voice (but I don’t watch them).

Sam: Zombie movies, After Earth (scifi movies) Man of Steel, Marvel movies, gaming (like Xbox, PS3,) Apple products, Magic tricks are really popular at school now, like card tricks. Adventure time.

It was really fun interviewing these four students (they were animated and loved talking about their favourite texts) – and while four little interviews is not enough data to make any sweeping statements there are some interesting things that I noted.

They all found new authors and series from seeing someone else reading them. (cousins, siblings, friends and “everybody at school was reading them”). They all tell their friends about books they like. I love that reading is not a private activity, squirreled away in a room – but that these young people take their books with them to school, and watch what their peers bring with them to school as well.

In contrast to how they discovered their favourite books/series/authors, they found their favourite shows themselves. Maybe this is because TV is already in their homes, with advertising in between shows to hook viewers into other shows. With books you have to go out and actively bring them back into the house – and this requires more thought. Which books should I get? How do I pick them? This is how my interviewees picked books: authors they already know and like, a cool/interesting cover, books they know their friends like, looking in the kids section of the library for a favourite genre (eg. comic books).

Only once did an interviewee mention a teacher as a book referrer (Andy Griffiths was being read to the class – perfect classroom reading material, in my opinionJ). While a recommendation from a librarian was never mentioned – finding books in the library was. A librarian might not actually engage one-on-one with a student and discuss books but they can recommend books by making them visible and prominent to students. Students are looking for great reading material. It’s not just going to appear out of thin air into their homes. Chloe said books “pop out on the shelves”. All four of them like roaming the library and looking at (cool) covers. They check out the blurbs and then take a chance if it sounds interesting. The library has a really exciting and important role in promoting books and enticing students with books pitched at their age. Eye-catching library displays, posters, genre-shelving, recently returned shelves and recommendation cards* are all great ways for librarians to capitalise on capturing students attention with good books.

I love how half of the favourite movies mentioned began as books. I love that once enough people love a book, a fandom can grow around it. That a whole franchise can be born out of it (including merchandise – which kids love). In turn, the movie can bring people back to reading the original story.  Speaking of merchandise, my interviewees love being surrounded by their favourite text-y things: posters and figurines, bedspreads, replica gadget and wearing tshirts and hats. All this becomes a part of their identity, their fashion statement and the unique stamping on their bedroom’s personality.

Chloe had the most delightfully earnest answer in regard to how she found one of her favourite authors: Carole Wilkinson – “my friend was reading the books (The Dragon Keeper series) and I got this voucher for the book shop and it stood out to me because my friend said it was really good. I started reading it and I just couldn’t stop reading.” Those are the magic words!

A short note on youtubes. Both girls (aged 9 and 10) do not follow anything or even go on there. Both boys (aged 11 and 12) were very animated and enthusiastic, chatting about their favourite channels. The main channels they were following were to with popular culture at the moment: Minecraft and magic tricks. I wonder if when the girls get older they’ll find their own channels for things that they are interested in? I am guessing when new games and trends come along, the boys will find youtube channels to engage online to be a part of their favourite pop culture fandoms/groups online.

*recommendation cards – if you liked Diary of a Wimpy kid you may love Big Nate (or Tom Gates). Or a personal note from other students who have read and returned the book: This was addictive! I recommend it to boys and girls who love suspense and stories with a twist!