Want to Entice Teens into Reading? Embrace Transmedia!

A few weeks ago, I read an NPR piece that reported on a group of studies from Common Sense Media concluding that teens aren’t reading for pleasure as much as they used to  — nearly half of 17-year-olds report reading for pleasure only one to two times a year. I’ve worked with teens in both the public and academic library arenas, so am fully aware of their (lack of) reading habits, but that statistic is even worse than I would have guessed.

What are teens doing instead? According to the studies, they’re on their phones or watching TV. Very likely, they’re also playing video games.

So how do you connect teens to reading through TV, Internet and digital games? Transmedia, of course!

How many of those teens who are watching TV are watching Game of Thrones? Or The Vampire Diaries? How many were introduced to Harry Potter or The Hunger Games or Twilight through the movies, not the books?

Hollywood has embraced transmedia storytelling in a very big way. And libraries need to do that too when promoting reading. That means more than promoting a book’s movie as a way to attract more readers. It’s a mindset change that requires looking at all forms of media as part of the bigger literary picture. It’s a multimedia, multi-literacy approach to promoting reading. It’s a way of bridging the gap between teens’ personal literacy practices with the kinds of literacy practices that promote college and career-readiness.

Instead of only putting up READ posters, put up movie posters too. Instead of limiting gameplaying in the library, create a space where teens can play the games that tie in with the books and the movies or TV series. Then create a reading-only zone that’s all about the books.

Transmedia storytelling is not only a Hollywood thing that extends books into movies and games and TV shows though. It’s a literary form in its own right. Inanimate Alice is an excellent example of that. And when you promote transmedia literature in your library, such as Inanimate Alice, you’re promoting a new kind of reading that fosters multi-modal literacy practices.

It’s summer. It’s the perfect time to explore and embrace transmedia storytelling @ your library!

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