There is ongoing discussion about teens not reading as they used to do. In today’s digital environment reading may involve multiple platforms. They’re still reading-—and writing—just not always in the traditional ‘book’ way.
This section looks at the area of teen reading, the benefits, motivations and types of reading that they engage with.
Why it is important for teens to read
Understanding teenage reading motivation: extrinsic or intrinsic?
What do teens read?
Strategies for engaging teens with reading
Reading role models for teens
Creating a reading culture in teens’ lives
Further reading and resources
“Schools aren’t just about teaching children to read, but teaching children to be social beings.” (Michael Rosen)
“Reading is a social act…” (Stephen Abram)
Continuing the habit of reading – widely – into teenage years helps teens to:
Read more in the toolkit for secondary schools (PDF) from the British National Literacy Trust.
The 2007 Pew report: Teens and Social Media (PDF) reports that 59 percent of teens surveyed regularly participate in online creation activities, from reading, writing, and sharing fan fiction, and reading and posting to blogs, to remixing online music, images, and videos.
NZCER research Competent learners at 14 shows that teens who enjoy reading are more likely to succeed in school and in their engagement with their various communities.
“Finding ways to engage students in reading may be one of the most effective ways to leverage social change” OECD, PISA report 2002 (PDF).
Understanding what motivates teens to read will help you put the right book in the right hands at the right time for the right reason. Peer validation of reading choices should not be underestimated either – if you can tap into the current ‘cool’ books, you can add to students’ reading mileage with ease.
All of us read with ‘me’ in the background – how does what we read relate to our ‘self’? Gibb and Guthrie (2008) call this the ‘potency of relevance’ and emphasise the need for teens to be able to make real-world connections with what they read. This is true no matter which delivery mechanism they use to read.
Research shows ‘adult-centric’ ideas can be anathema to teenagers, whose view of the world is more likely to be coloured by the choices of their peer group.
Danah Boyd (2008) suggests teens go to social media as a first ‘mode of delivery’ choice so they can talk to each other without adults involved.
With this in mind, libraries need to provide opportunities for teens to give input into collection development. Ways to do this include:
To get teens reading libraries should be social spaces with reading material available in a range of formats. Along with traditional library resources such as books and magazines look at providing:
Use Web 2.0 to your advantage to actively promote reading for example. podcasts, youtube, blogs, twitter, social book sharing sites. A popular activity is creating book trailers or having a book trailer competition. You can then display them on your website or blog.
Schools need to provide the resources and opportunities needed for students to engage with reading such as:
Students also need opportunities to participate in reader response. Reader responses can be blogposts, competitions, mix-and-mash or book raps, for example. Another popular activity is speed booking.
Book discussion groups can be a powerful motivator as peers play a crucial role in developing attitiudes to reading. Set up book discussion groups – these can be informal, maybe a lunch-time session and make reading cool.
Be prepared to discuss and acknowledge the reader’s ideas – respecting their opinions and encouraging sharing.
Role models are a key reference for adolescents, because they provide a window to the future. Adolescents read more when they see adults such as parents and teachers reading. It is particularly powerful for boys to see adult males engaged in reading. ‘Dads and Lads’ sessions help endorse the value of reading; getting reading champions (the captain of the First XV?) to inspire others; or enlisting reading mentors to support other students. All help consolidate a reading culture in the school.
Here are some other ideas you might like to try in your school:
Always remember to record what your actions were for any library initiative, and monitor the outcomes.
In relation to teenage reading in your school, look at what the initial level of library use was. What do the school’s reading scores show, and do your teenage students feel well served or poorly served by the kinds of reading resources you offer?
This creates evidence of practice, which you can then report on - and probably some good stories as well, to go into your report for the principal and Board of Trustees.
Boyd, Danah. Why youth social network sites: the role of networked publics in teenage social life (PDF). University of California, Berkeley, School of Information.
Gibb, Robert L. & Guthrie, John T. Interest in reading: potency of relevance. In Guthrie, John T, ed. Engaging adolescents in reading. Corwin Press, 2008.
Guthrie, John T, ed. Engaging adolescents in reading. Corwin Press, 2008.
Irvin, Judith, et al. Taking the lead on adolescent literacy: action steps for schoolwide success. Corwin/International Reading Association, 2010.
Krashen, Stephen. The power of reading: insights from the research. 2nd ed. Heinemann, 2004.
La Marca, Susan and Macintyre, Pam. Knowing readers: unlocking the pleasure of reading. School Library Association of Victoria, 2006.
Layne, Stephen. Igniting a passion for reading: successful strategies for building lifetime readers. Stenhouse, 2009.
Lenhart, Amanda, et al. Teens and social media. Pew Internet and American Life Project, 2007.
Miller, Donalyn. The book whisperer: awakening the inner reader in every child. Jossey-Bass, 2009.
Moyer, Jessica E. Teens today don’t read books anymore: a study of differences in interest and comprehension based on reading modalities: Part 1, Introduction and methodology (2010). Evidence-based research into how teens interact with text. It’s not just about books anymore…
Buffy Hamilton’s conference presentation YA Lit 2.0: How YA Authors and Publishers Are Using Web 2.0 Tools to Reach Teen Readers (2009) gives a succinct account in Slideshare format on reaching young adult readers.
The Online Communities are an online space on the Services to Schools website where logged in members can discuss multiple or particular interests to do with school libraries and reading. Of particular interest if you are supporting teen readers are:
Engaging teens: Those interested in Young Adult books can find links and resources, share ideas, ask questions and give feedback about how they are engaging teens with reading.
Miss Maple: Group where participants have fun talking about favourite books, characters and authors.
Services to Schools’ Library Thing has a brief and up-to-date list of recommended titles for teens.
Children’s Books The UK Guardian’s book site for children with reviews, book lists, authors’ podcasts and more.
Goodreads Hugely popular social network with peer written reviews, recommendations and discussions.
Inside a dog: an Australian website for teenagers with book reviews, news, discussions and a a writer-in-residence blog.
Reading Rants: A blog set up to review out of the ordinary books for teens. The author encourages teens to comment on the books reviewed and gives them the opportunity to write their own.
Reading Teen blog: ‘… a place where teens, parents of teens, and people who just love YA books can find reviews on books, suggestions on what to read (and maybe what not to read), and discuss what they thought about the books.’ A related site contains YA book reviews by a group of parents, linked to this blog: Reading teen: parental book reviews.
Reader to reader: A virtual space to share opinions on books, what you loved, hated, or got stuck on.
Scottish Book Trust has a range of resources such as these videos and accompanying handbook on book trailers.
Reading Matters: UK site by Jill Marshall with ibooklists and reviews for children and YA.
Good Reading: An Australian website with sections for libraries and kids or all ages.
Spine Out: Australian online magazine for Young Adults created by the Good Reading team.
The Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) of the School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison is a ‘unique and vital gathering place for books, ideas, and expertise in the field of children’s and young adult literature.’ It collates book discussions, multicultural literature, graphic novel resources, publishing trends, books-of-the-year – a valuable ‘go-to’ for children’s and YA literature.
Gnooks - Welcome to the world of literature includes a map of literature with information about authors and mindmaps of other authors that might appeal.
Justin the Librarian’s blog includes a post on The Future of the teen library - challenging public libraries to review their provisions for teen users.
Michael Rosen’s mission is ‘to turn every school into a ‘book loving school…where books are prioritised and enjoyed.’ The ‘Getting Started’ section has a 20 point plan for book promotion - relevant for secondary and primary schools.
TeenRead.com: US based site with reviews, features, suggested reading and competitions.
A list-in-progress of twitter hashtags relating to kids/YA literature
Magpies: Talking about books for children The Australian- published children’s literature journal is an invaluable source of reviews, articles and author interviews. Including eight pages of New Zealand material at its centre. Sections on Older Picture Books; Independent readers; Extending Readers are all valuable for teen suggestions.
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