Last spring I was interviewing the librarian at my daughter's secondary school and she related how difficult it was to engage her students in pleasure reading. Despite having a beautiful space to read in, and thoughtfully chosen and arranged books, it doesn't even occur to a large number of students to take advantage of this resource. So many young teens enter their senior schools with a pleasure reading habit, and gradually, they lose it -- sometimes, altogether. The relentlessness of the exam schedule causes many to jettison all but required reading; unfortunately, our education system often squashes the independent learning behaviours it ideally wants to encourage.
There is a prodigious wealth of reading research demonstrating that pleasure reading is vital "for both educational as well as personal development" (National Literacy Trust), and yet so many teenagers lose the reading habit just when they need it most.
Question a teenager about his or her non-reading habits and you will invariably get this response: I'm too busy to read. And yet, these same busy teens invariably have time to binge-watch trash television and Netflix, not to mention Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Whats App, Tumblir, You Tube and whatever else is fashionable in their social networking world.
With that in mind, our ultimate goal at TRAC is to find teens where they live -- which seems to be on their smart phones, tablets and laptops. We are in the process of developing a web application that will connect teens to the books they would enjoy reading -- whilst simultaneously allowing them to directly purchase the desired book or download it in e-book form from their local library.
Who is this blog for?
TRAC wants to connect directly with teens, but as we develop, we realise that we will probably be communicating with parents.
For many years I have been the person that friends turn to with the general question of what should my child be reading? Or sometimes, more specifically, what do you recommend for ____?
Some readers will seek out books on their own, and the hunting grounds of bookstore, library and online sellers are familiar territory for them. Other teens, including my own adolescent daughters, need to have a book placed directly in their hands. I read about this book (or even better, I read this book) and I think you would really like it.
I truly think that anyone can be a reader, if given the right book at the right time, but can that personal approach ever be duplicated in virtual form?
I suspect that I will be preaching to the converted -- the audience of parents who would like their teenagers to read for pleasure, and hopefully some interested teenage readers -- but the agnostic, the curious and the random visitor are most welcome.