Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What We Don't Know Hurts Us

I have been thinking a lot about one of those gaps in our knowledge that is invisible until it becomes so self-evident you cannot imagine how you missed it. Perhaps I am a bit inclined to look for such gaps because of working with Adrienne Mayor -- the woman who figured out the connection between some mythological creatures and the fossils that were visible to those who first reported seeing those beasts and monsters. That connection makes so much sense -- yet it took her ten years of detective work to prove it. So here is the one I am thinking about: stats.

Everyone who has ever been in an elementary school, a children's collection, or around boys knows that books of records, stats, weird and wacky facts are immensely popular. They are the prototypical "I cannot keep them on the shelves" books. But why? What pleasures do those readers experience? What do that "get" from such books? Is there only one kind of stat fan or are there subgroups of stat-consumers each of which has its own reading interest, style, and appetite? It is easy to guess -- short text, photos, weird subjects; but then there is clearly more -- collecting, comparing, competing, all of those figure in. How does stat collecting compare with, say, doll collecting, or stamp collecting, or shell collecting? Are the pleasures and search styles similar? How does stat collecting and competing figure into gaming -- from Pokemon to whatever is popular now, to apps and video games? Since we have not really mapped the experience of the stat reader who have absolutely no information about the huge, obvious, follow-on question: what next?

What would be the ideal middle grade or YA read for the elementary school student who passionately devours stats? What is arc, the bridge of reading?

See what I mean about obvious -- we've all met the stat readers, but other than knowing they are there, we have not explored their experiences and thought how to capture and expand their passionate reading world.

I want to study exactly this -- and then build an arc of reading From Records to Infinity -- and Beyond. Sound good? 


  1. Sounds great. I'd love to see a study that focuses on these readers and what kind of books will help them bridge the gap to long-form nonfiction.

  2. We need to develop a nonfiction algorithm and then build a bot that can direct readers from stats to trivia to full blown lengths of nonfiction! It would be a dream come true.