To Foster a Love for Reading, Think Outside the Book


The principal at my daughter’s school has been waxing poetic lately about the 40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents, as identified by the Search Institute, a research organization with a mission to discover “what kids need to succeed.” Number 25 of the developmental assets is reading for pleasure. For librarians, this comes as no surprise. The million dollar question, though, is how do we get kids reading more, especially at the adolescent stage when the voluntary choice to read begins to wane?

It’s time to think outside the book…

…and graphic novel (though these are great)…

…and magazine (not sure that these count as sustained reading when they are formatted as bits and bites of information).

So, what other modes can give that same sense of sustained reading (I’ll call this a state of flow) that really good books (including graphic novels) so often do?

Here are some ideas:

  • Text adventure games. These harken back to the days of DOS, and I think any self-proclaimed gaming geek will be familiar with them. This is reading plus gaming, which makes for a powerful literacy tool. You can still play some of the classics, including Colossal Cave Adventure and Zork. Additional titles can be found here (you can even create your own). Text adventures are a great way to bridge gaming literacy with traditional literacy.
  • Story exploration games. Consider these a more modern take on the text adventure games with multimedia and (sometimes) transmedia elements. They are story-driven, so combine traditional reading with the multimodality of more contemporary gaming literacy (including visual, information, media literacies). Here are some examples:
    1. Gone Home
    2. The Stanley Parable
    3. The Minims
    4. Minecraft: Story Mode
    5. Cloud Chamber
    6. For other titles, check out Games for Change
  • Interactive fiction. Technically, text adventure games and story exploration games can be thought of as interactive fiction (and are sometimes categorized that way). For the purpose of this post, I am using the interactive fiction category to include titles that are not necessarily games, though most include gaming elements. Interactive fiction comes in many flavors, from “choose your own adventure,” hypertext, multi-ending stories to digital novels and multimodal audiobooks. Reading (or narration) is a central component of interactive fiction. Here are some examples:
    1. Inanimate Alice
    2. Hilda Bewildered
    3. Rockford’s Rock Opera
    4. Beneath Floes
    5. Flight Paths
  • Story making. Writing is an active approach to reading, so what better way to foster recreational reading than to foster recreational writing? Internet technologies make it so easy. My favorite story making tools include Storybird, My StoryMaker (Carnegie Library), and Drawp (also, Drawp for School). For a list of more tools, click here.
  • Transmedia franchises. Hollywood has handed librarians a pot of gold with the proliferation of transmedia franchises. We can now enter a story world through a movie, a video game, or a social media platform (and more) before we ever discover the book. The Game of Thrones franchise is a massively popular example of this, as is Star Wars. Take advantage of transmedia franchises by helping students make connections between the story worlds, so that they eventually land on the book.

If you want to explore more innovative ways of thinking about reading “outside the book,” be sure to check out my upcoming publication, titled Transmedia Storytelling: The Librarian’s Guide (click on the image below to find out more):

Inanimate Alice is Going to ISTE 2015!


ISTE  is right around the corner, and I am busily preparing to debut Inanimate Alice as a STEAM tool in a poster session on Monday. June 29 from 2-4 pm! If you are attending ISTE, please stop by and say hello… and meet Alice.

I will be using this post as a one-stop-shop for all the materials for the session.

  • Here is a nice video montage that summarizes the story and showcases its uses as an educational tool (thanks Andy and Ian!).

I will be tweeting out my experiences on Monday under #iteachalice #ISTE2015, so stay tuned! This should be an adventure for Alice!