What’s not Cringe? Books. Gen Alpha Likes to Read. | From the Editor

Gen A is plugged in and opinionated, as marketers attempt to keep pace. Librarians stay right with young users, knowing that's all a part of the job.

The kids are alright, even if they do find their parents cringey at times. That’s one takeaway from considering the Gen Alpha zeitgeist. The youngest generation, born starting in the early 2010s and succeeding Gen Z, has some thoughts.

Faith Hitchon TikTok screenshot
Faith Hitchon

Consider the TikTok feed of Faith Hitchon. “This is going to come for the throat of every Millennial, but not only are skinny jeans out, so are skinny leggings,” says the 35-year-old mom and marketer, speaking from her car while waiting in the pickup line at her daughter’s Los Angeles middle school. “If you’re going to wear a legging, it needs to have some flare to it, or you need to be wearing sweatpants.” And flashing a peace sign when taking a selfie “is no longer a thing,” states Hitchon. “In fact, my daughter always tells me, it’s ‘cringe’ when I do it.”

Got a PopSocket? Those would be the “skinny jeans of phone accessories,” says Hitchon in her viral series of Gen A trend reports.

While library services may not hew so closely to au courant tween culture, those seeking to serve adolescents and teens attend to their interests and habits to get them in the door and engaged at the library. That requires bridging generational sensibilities, for starters.

For insight, I spoke to MaryLeigh Bliss, chief content officer of YPulse, who shared the youth research firm’s Tween Study, released in March.

Image representing YPulse report coverThe degree to which technology influences, if not defines, the lives of eight- to twelve-year-olds is striking; kids surveyed owned an average of five devices, from phones and tablets to gaming consoles. Age restrictions are meaningless—tweens are on social media and much more than their parents realize—and YouTube and TikTok are a regular source of content.

Reading, remarkably enough, made the top five of tweens’ hobbies (after sports, arts/arts & crafts, and video games, and followed by dance). “So libraries have plenty of opportunity to reach this generation. What we often see is Millennial parents really wanting to ignite a love of reading in their kids even more and hunting for those books,” says Bliss.

Librarians have a demonstrated edge, with instincts honed from time spent with young users. In public or school libraries, where kids have more latitude to follow their interests than in school, librarians can glean what they want and need.

Take Jamie Storrs. The teacher librarian at El Centro Jr. and Sr. High School at the Sacramento County Youth Detention Facility knows her students. “They come in here and pick up Diary of a Wimpy Kid, every time,” says Storrs, a 2024 School Librarian of the Year (SLOTY) Finalist, who understands there’s more to it. Serving 163 incarcerated young people ages 10–20+, she says, “They are frightened. They are in with a bunch of kids they don’t know. That book is familiar and something they had on the outside.”

For even seasoned veterans, there are surprises. That happened to Tamara Cox when a student at Wren High School in Piedmont, SC, where she serves as librarian, discovered graphic novels. “He’s a junior. So often you think you know who your readers are, but I never give up. This child is close to graduating and has just found the books he loves,” says Cox (her SLOTY Finalist profile).

Increasing exposure to media and at an ever younger age notwithstanding, kids, developmentally and otherwise, might be just kids. The trick is to stay with them.

“Elementary kids are a trip,” says Amanda Chacon, librarian at H.M. Carroll Elementary School in Houston and 2024 School Librarian of the Year. “Their interests change all the time, and you have to be fleet-footed. One day they are interested in ghosts, the next, it’s space. What’s great about my job is that it’s always changing and never predictable.”


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Kathy Ishizuka

Kathy Ishizuka is editor in chief of School Library Journal.

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