The length of children’s books has ballooned over the past 20 years, and experts think Harry Potter is behind it.
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Who says kids don’t read anymore?
Well, technically this story isn’t about how much they’re reading, but the reading material available to them is getting longer and longer by the year. Briana Shemroske, an editorial assistant for Booklist’s youth department, took it upon herself to comb through back issues and found that middle-grade fiction novels (those aimed at kids in grades 3-8) have been getting thicker for a long time.
Check out this chart she whipped up.
To throw more numbers at you, that means that, since 1976, children’s book have grown at a rate of 173%! That’s a lotta pages. Since 1996, they’ve grown by an enormous 111%. That number is important, since 1996 was two years before Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone hit bookstores, launching a series that got kids engaged in literature at a level seldom seen since television was invented and gave them a less taxing way to spend their free time. (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the British version of the book, came out even earlier, in 1997.)
Shemroske asked a couple of experts for their opinions on why kids’ books have gotten so much longer, and they both gave the same answer: Harry Potter. It’s no surprise that authors looked at J.K. Rowling’s enormous success and thought about getting in on the action. The subsequent years have been filled with blockbuster book series for kids and young adults, from Twilight to The Hunger Games to Divergent, so they weren’t far off the mark.
Editor Ilene Cooper also mentioned that fantasy books in general are usually bulkier on average than their reality-bound brethren. “Fantasies tend to be really long,” she said. “Authors are building another world. Readers of fantasy want to get lost in those worlds.”
Kudos to Harry Potter, and to fantasy fiction in general, for giving young readers more to chew on.