According to Renaissance Learning, an ‘education company’ (no, I don’t know what that means either. They sell books? Blackboards? Teachers?), who surveyed over 150,000 children’s reading habits in primary and secondary schools, the twelfth favourite book of 14-16-year-old girls was The Very Hungry Caterpillar, that cardboard-backed thriller for the ankle-biter set — Will the Caterpillar Turn into a Butterfly, or Will it Get Squashed First?
Wuthering Heights, teen-angst weepy extraordinaire, has vanished; so has To Kill a Mockingbird. Instead it is caterpillars ‘n’ Harry Potter.
Yet I wonder how true it is, and how the reading was assessed. Was it via self-reporting? Were the girls just taking the piss? (I think I would have.) It will be interesting to see how the Guardian‘s new children’s book website fares faced with these Caterpillar findings. I suspect rather well, and that Renaissance (whatever its business interests may have been in doing what must have been a very expensive survey) may have been blindsided.
The Guardian site is not only for children, but by children, encouraging kids able to sign up and become involved. There are no indications of caterpillar-mania on the teen pages, but many of seriousness (and jokiness), of breadth, depth and respect for reading and for each other — indications that were less apparent in the doom-and-gloom survey.