Reader Evolution – part 1


I have always found it interesting how different age groups are more entertained by certain books.  Actually, a more accurate explanation is that I have been fascinated as to why different generations enjoy hearing the same stories and plots told in different ways.  Let me explain:

I would wager that if you really considered it, you could find an adult equivalent to most children’s books.  Even though we get older, our reading material tends to teach the same morals: families are important, be a good person and you will be happy, believe in yourself, treat others with respect, always to what is right even if it’s hard, anything is possible, you can change the world, etc.

But it isn’t the similarities between books that interest me most; it’s the subtle differences between them.  I realize that my thoughts may be an overgeneralization and I don’t intend to mention every way in which stories differ from generation to generation.  But I do wish to bring to light some of my most favorite observations.  Today, I will mention one – scene description.

You will find that as a book’s intended audience matures, the author will spend an excessive amount of time describing more and more details (whether or not they are important to the plot).  What was merely a ball in children’s book becomes (when writing for an older demographic) a tattered soccer ball with a crackling surface and an ever so slight air leak which causes a small puff of air to emit from it upon striking it.  Now that I am older, I find that an author’s descriptive abilities know no bounds. I often find myself thinking, “Enough already. Was it really necessary to use up the last three pages to describe the clouds in the sky? It’s cloudy! I get the picture now let’s move on!”

But my question is why?  Why do children not require as many details?  Are their attention spans too short? Maybe younger readers can’t process as much information. Or maybe they don’t have the patience to read all the extra fluff.

It’s possible, however, that the problem may lie with the older readers and not with children at all.  Perhaps young readers’ imaginations are so strong that lengthy descriptions are too stifling.  It could very well be that it’s the more elder readers who need a picture painted for them while a youthful audience can sculpt its own masterpiece.

I don’t pretend to know the real reason.  I hardly know enough about human development to even begin to answer that quandary. But it’s certainly fun to think about.

-Devon
BYU Bookstore Marketing

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