Research Output
Bolshie teenagers and boring books: pre and post Potter.
  A 1989 report provided both a snapshot of the contemporary role of reading in children’s lives and a basis upon which policies could be developed in order to encourage reading. The motivation for this work was both pragmatic and aspirational: a reverse in the decline of the number of readers would result in increased revenues and independence for writers and publishers and a reduced need for subvention; and the study was informed by the view that reading was ‘an enriching experience’. Its focus was not illiteracy but ‘aliteracy’, not an inability to read but an unwillingness to read. It limited the field to reading ‘literature’ in a broad sense rather than reading for education, instruction or information in a narrow one: Stephen King counted, Haynes car manuals did not. The major consequence of this study was that reading for this age-group went to the top of the agenda for educational and cultural policy-makers, writers and publishers. More resources were put into initiatives targeting children. The ‘Harry Potter’ phenomenon – the first book appeared in 1997 – gave hope that the number of children with a reading habit was actually on the increase. Writers and publishers were no longer underestimating children’s ability to deal with sophisticated themes, emotions and ideas. Ten years on a further study of children’s reading habits and practices in Scotland was undertaken by Avril Gray and Alistair McCleery to provide a longer-term comparison, and this paper presents the summary results of this study.

  • Type:

    Conference Paper (unpublished)

  • Date:

    16 October 2009

  • Publication Status:


  • Library of Congress:

    PZ Childrens literature

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    306 Culture & institutions


Gray, A. (2009, October). Bolshie teenagers and boring books: pre and post Potter. Paper presented at 7th International Conference on the Book, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Scotland



children; reading; literature; Scotland; illiteracy; aliteracy; ‘Harry Potter’ phenomenon;

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