Reaching Today’s Kids
Several recently published studies have found that kids are becoming “teens” at a younger age than ever before. Children’s book publishers must face the challenge of reaching a changing audience demographic of more independent and mature readers. Lisa Holton, executive vice president of Scholastic and president of the company’s book fairs and trade books, talks with Book Business about the task.
● How are children’s book publishers responding to the trend of children becoming “teenagers” at a much earlier age?
Lisa Holton: It’s very interesting to see what kids are actually reading, in terms of understanding whether that trend is true. At Scholastic, we have a wonderful way of looking at what kids are reading, not only through the books they buy through all of the independent bookstores and various other bookstores, but also through our own book clubs and book fairs. While it’s certainly true kids are using advanced technological stuff, like cell phones and computers and games, there’s still a very wide range of reading interest. So that we find, depending on who they are and what their sophistication level and … reading level is, some are, at a much earlier age, ready for our specific teenage line.
● How do you ensure that the content is not too mature, yet appeals to them?
Holton: Kids, just like 10 and 20 years ago, just respond to great writing. They really do. Dav Pilkey writes “[The Adventures of] Captain Underpants,” which on the surface seem really silly, but in fact they are genius in understanding the audience. … That’s what the kids respond to. It’s not that someone set out to try and capture where they are. It’s just that he’s writing straight from his heart.
We’re publishing a new series—“Main Street” from Ann Martin, the author of “The Baby-Sitters Club.” It’s as if she’s channeling eight- or nine-year-old girls. And she’s not setting out to write to them. It’s her voice and where she comes from. …