Children are the most demanding readers, so whoever writes childrens’ books feels the pressure. They are demanding because it is their right. According to the most recent Habits of Reading and Buying Books in Spain report, compiled with data from 2020 and published by the Federation of Publishers Guilds of Spain (FGEE), the age group with the most frequent readers – those who read at least once per week— is between 10 and 14 years old. Children amount to 79.8%, well above the national average, which stands at 52.7%.
Children’s eagerness to read continues to escalate with each report, especially considering all readers, frequent or not. In 2020, the percentage of readers between 10 and 14 years old was 87.4%, more than the previous year (86.2%) and much more than four years ago, in 2017, when it was 80%. Although these numbers seem to have reached a peak, they will not decrease.
The market responds to demand
According to the latest Internal Book Trade report, edited by the FGEE, the printing of new children’s and youth titles totaled 8,163 in 2020. . This figure represents a decrease of 15.3% compared to the previous year, a fall very similar to that of the total number of new books printed, which was 16.5%.
Are 8,163 new children’s and young adult titles many, few, or just average? If we compare this figure with the total of printed novels, we find that the number of children’s and young adult books is less by 500 titles. And we are talking about all the novels. Another example: 20 children’s and young adult books are released for every new science fiction or horror book published in 2020.
And there is another illuminating figure: the number of printed copies. One in four books that came out of the printers in 2020 was for children or young adults. We are talking about 46.682.000 copies, more than all adult fiction put together (41.070.000 books).
Reading enthusiasm is interrupted by adolescence
The visible repeated problem, according to records, is the drop that occurs when readers turn 15, as stated by the report on Reading and Buying Habits of Books in Spain. Between 10 and 14 years old, eight out of ten readers read frequently. However, this amount drops to five out of ten after that age. And it has always been like that.
The challenge facing publishers is to bridge this gap. Possible solutions include publishing books that address challenging topics from a youth perspective. That is the format that publishers such as the Andalusian Bibidi-bu or the Catalan Andana are following. Or writers like Coral Herrera, who published Mommy goes on a trip! About mothers’ right to rest.
Other topics addressed in these titles are suicide, identity, mental illness, climate change awareness, social commitment, or diversity.
Editorial phenomena such as the Harry Potter sagas or The Hunger Games, whose protagonists grew as their readers did and accompanied both children and adolescents, are gone. The current strategy set by the publishers does not seem to pursue this upward transition in fiction but aims to focus on one or the other, either publishing for children or juveniles. And, at the moment, those who best respond to books are the youngest.