Having spent several years planning and designing school and public libraries, one of the issues mentioned in design consolation meetings is how to encourage teenagers to read more. A recent study conducted by The Reading Agency states that 44% of young people in England don’t read for pleasure. This is becoming ever increasing with the availability of digital and social media in teenagers’ lives, whether it be through e-books, online articles, smart phones or tablets.
Schools and libraries are having to compete with this digital world and understand better about what motivates teens to read. Reading should be an enjoyable experience which helps with teenage development. If children have a positive attitude towards reading at a young age, they can carry on this enjoyment into adult life.As a furniture and design team, when we work with public libraries to plan the furniture we now incorporate a separate teenage section. We’ve pulled together a few helpful tips to help encourage teenagers/young adults into public libraries:
1. Within the teenage/young adult section, the layout of shelving units can be split into two separate areas: older children and young adults. The older children section would be near the children’s section to help the transition from children to teenager reading. The young adult section would be next to the adult section as adults like to dip into the younger adult books. These areas could be split with loose soft seating and a separate area for I.T.
2. A good children’s section will encourage younger readers from the start, as they can enjoy the library experience and become enthusiastic readers. Younger children enjoy the process of choosing books when there’s an interesting display and like to sit down in hide away seating areas and read with the comfort of adults they know and trust.
3. Offer a mix of fiction and non-fiction books with expert endorsed reading lists for subjects such as mental health. These reading lists are proving very popular with young adults and most libraries offer the loan of these books for free. Chairs with high backs and arms can provide a safe environment for young adults to read within the library before booking the books out and taking them home.
4. Graphic panels on walls and contrasting coloured seating separate from the children’s and adult sections always work well. The use of different styles of chairs and seating from the rest of the library can make the teenagers feel special and grown up.
5. A friendly, welcoming atmosphere with facilities like Wi-Fi connection, coffee/tea facilities and sofas to compete with coffee shops are key. Some libraries have even opted for designated social areas with low level music. Public libraries are no longer places just for quiet reading and contemplation, but also include social, relaxing and informative features.
Research shows that reading for pleasure can reduce symptoms of depression, build empathy and help build relationships with others. Adults with lower levels of literacy are also more likely to experience poor health. With all this in mind, reading should be encouraged from an early age and the best way is for schools and parents to help encourage their children to read for pleasure which is largely down to the environment available to them.