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!

Multiple Intelligences, Multiple Literacies

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Today’s post was inspired by a recent article in School Library Journal about a school library in St. Louis that was designed with Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory in mind. As I read the article, it occurred to me that multiple intelligences and multiple literacies are intricately connected. Gardner defined intelligence as “the ability to solve problems, or to fashion products, that are valued in one or more cultural or community settings.” As I see it, literacy then is the practice or expression of intelligence within social, cultural, historical and institutional contexts.

Multiple literacies require multiple intelligences. Here’s my take on it:

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences

Source: Laughlin, 1999

Related Literacies

Linguistic intelligence

  • Learning through listening, reading, writing, discussing
Basic literacy (e.g. reading, writing)

Critical literacy

Argument literacy

Information literacy

Digital literacy

Multimodal literacy

Logical-mathematical intelligence

  • Logical thinking, problem solving, deductive and inductive reasoning

Logical literacy

Problem solving literacy

Critical literacy

Information literacy

Digital literacy

Game literacy

Spatial intelligence

  • Learning by seeing, observing, visualizing
  • Thinking in pictures
  • Decoding visual media
Visual literacy

Media literacy

Spatial literacy

Game literacy

Musical intelligence

  • Organizing sound into patterns
  • Responding to music by performing, creating or dancing
  • Developing the ability to sing or play an instrument
Music literacy

Rhythmic literacy

Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence

  • Learning by doing
Active literacy

Play literacy

Interpersonal intelligence

  • Forming and maintaining social relationships
  • Communicating effectively both verbally and non-verbally
  • Discerning the moods and motivations of others
Social-emotional literacy

Cultural literacy

Intrapersonal intelligence (interdependent with interpersonal intelligence)

  • Self-awareness of emotion
  • Self-actualization
Social-emotional literacy

There is undoubtedly an intelligence-literacy connection, and there are probably many more literacies that could be added to the chart. It’s also likely that some use the term literacy and intelligence interchangeably. The primary difference I see is that the capacity for those intelligences exists innately in all of us, and literacy is the way we learn to express those intelligences within a socio-cultural context.

One thing I haven’t touched on in this post: the tools used to achieve those intelligences and literacies. That’s an important aspect of the intelligence-literacy connection. The evolution of technology has changed the way we practice literacy, and some have even claimed that it has changed the way we learn. I’m not convinced yet of the latter, though motivation and memory are important elements of the learning process and technology certainly has changed what motivates us (and possibly how we decide what to memorize and what to store in external memory).

Hopefully, the New City School in St. Louis has considered the importance of technology integration into its Multiple Intelligences Library.