(Image courtesy of Foyle's website)
On my first two public library visits in London I was interested to learn that teens do not stand out as a patron group the way they do in U.S. libraries. I had been thinking about this when I decided to go to another kind of expert-booksellers.
My bookstore experience has taught me that booksellers are often privy to trends in reading and selection long before they make themselves known in other areas such as libraries and schools. Given this fact, I wanted to see what booksellers thought of the recent influx of literature published for teens and what the teens themselves were buying and asking for-and if they were asking at all.
Foyle's has the feeling of the chain bookstore, but it has the charm and the personality of a local bookstore. Foyle's has been in business for over 100 years and has only 4 branches plus their website. For more information about this bookstore or to check out their great selection of titles and gift items click here.
The site I visited is located at the Royal Festival Hall near Gabriel's Wharf and part of a row of other attractions such as London's film museum, the Movieum, the National Theatre, the London Eye and more. As with their libraries, Britons locate their bookstores in central entertainment and shopping areas where they are easily accessible and there is constant foot traffic.
The booksellers were pleased to answer all of my questions and I think they enjoyed speaking from a professional point of view. While the recent changes in teen publishing have been exciting for them, they have not noticed a huge influx of readers like we have in the United States.
I think this is because there is no stigma placed on children and teens who read in England. In fact, the stigma generally lies with those who don't. Reading is an accepted and expected part of the culture here. It is common to see people walking around town with their current read and reading is the most popular pastime on the city's many public transit systems. Publishers put huge marketing efforts into new releases for adults including posters throughout the underground system, so it is no surprise that children are picking up on their parents' reading habits.
As for what the teens are reading, they like the books in the teen section and for the random reluctant readers out there it has definitely helped to peak their interest in leisure reading, but their interests are as varied by topic and genre as their parents. Except for vampires. After all, is there anyone out their today who does not love vampires? And do you know a teen who can resist them? Leave it to dark creatures of the night to be the glue that binds this generation together.