Reading books as a teenager can feel more like a chore than leisure, especially when distracted by Facebook and Instagram. However, what happens when you combine social media and reading, then cater it toward young adult (YA) readers? Rachel Fershleiser, a representative from Tumblr, said some sites that successfully combine both are “replicating what your local bookstore used to do.” She observed this at a forum held by the Children’s Book Council (CBC), where they led a discussion entitled Engaging Relationships: How Kids & Teens Discover, Connect With, and Share Their Passions. The sites involved in the discussion were Teenreads, Wattpad, Tumblr, the Reading Teen blog, The Book Report Network, DogoBooks and DogoNews.
The discussion centered on how social media is providing a chance for teens to become avid readers by creating a community for them to express themselves as readers and writers. Sites such as Teenreads, DogoBooks and the Reading Teen blog help give teens the opportunity to share, review and find books they might like. Other sites like DogoNews make current events accessible to teenagers. On the Reading Teen blog, not only can users write books or book reviews for other teenagers; they can also share their thoughts in video blogs and provide the links for these vlogs posted on YouTube.
These sites are creating a separate world for teens to become better readers and join a society with like-minded peers to discuss any book of their choosing. One of the Reading Teen bloggers on the panel at the CBC forum, eighteen-year-old Kit, believes that she can be a literary matchmaker on the blogs and in person. She wants to help her peers find books that interest them and use social media as a tool. She and her social media peers are forming these interactions without high censorship (except in extreme cases) and without the permission of parents or guardians, which may cause a bit of hesitancy. However, despite the lack of high security, the space can be similar to book clubs held at local bookstores.
Instead of driving to the local bookstore or café, teenagers can just look at their phones or computers for the same sharing experience. These sites can be found on the go, making it easier for any reader to access them while en route to either school or work, and even at home. These online resources are also great for teachers to use for school projects. In addition to encouraging the use of these sites for homework, teachers are also promoting these online resources to prompt teens into reading more. Other beneficial methods beyond the world of social media for encouraging reading were suggested at the forum. One such instance was the suggestion that male teen readers take the more feminine-looking covers off of books if the readers were turned off merely by the design and not the content.
Surely any technique or attempt, be it small or large, to encourage reading among people of any age, is beneficial. Now, online outlets that provide a pseudo-book club environment can be added to this list of productive methods. Many of these online resources help students feel united with their peers through literature, demonstrating that social media may be advantageous for the future.
- Karen Springen, “Teenage Tweetland: YA Authors and Publishers Reach Out to Young Readers Where They Live: Online and on Their Smartphones,” Publishers Weekly, May 11, 2013, http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/57212-teenage-tweetland.html.