Using technology to promote reading

Bev Humphrey, founder of Write Path International Collaborative Writing Project, examines how digital media can help students discover the excitement of opening a new book.

Encouraging reluctant young people to pick up a book and read for information and pleasure seems to be becoming more difficult every year, especially as the range of digital distractions is ever increasing. To be fair to kids that are addicted to their computer games, tablets etc., it’s definitely not something that is confined to the young. How many of us, hand on heart, can say we would be happy to give up our smartphone with its immediate gratification of Google search results and likes on social media? Tapping in to this fascination with screens can be very effective for promoting reading, however, and can assist you in helping your students discover the excitement of opening a new book.

YouTube

YouTube has replaced Google searching for many young people now, as they would prefer to watch a video on how to do something than read through websites. There is a vibrant community of book lovers on YouTube that goes under the moniker of ‘BookTube’. 

Some of you may have heard of Zoella (Zoe Sugg), a YouTuber with a huge influence on young people in the UK.

YouTube has replaced Google searching for many young people

The video she made about her next bookclub list with UK booksellers WH Smith had 1.3 million views and sold a heck of a lot of books. There are a great number of young people who take to YouTube to share their love of books and reading, and post unboxing videos (where they open boxes of books they have been sent and show the contents), and it’s hugely popular with kids. This unboxing video from Jesy Elysie has been viewed more than 38,000 times! I think your students are much more likely to give a book a go if it is recommended by a YouTuber of a similar age rather than a teacher or librarian.

Other videos

Publishers and authors have realised the power videos have too, and many of them produce book trailer videos for new releases that can advertise the book pre-publication in the same way that film trailers have always whetted our appetite for new films.

If your school has a YouTube account, you can follow publishers’ channels and be notified if they add new content. Showcasing trailers can pique teens’ interest and can even help break them out of their self-imposed genre boundaries — the student that will only read vampire books, for example.

There are a great many unofficial trailers on YouTube, created by readers such as this one about Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell. Encouraging your students to create their own trailers, using sites like Animoto or Powtoon, is a great way of getting some peer recommendations going.

Social media

Social media is very important to young (and more mature) people, and sites like Twitter and Instagram have immense potential for encouraging reading. Instagram, especially, is well suited to sharing pictures of great books with a short review, using the hashtag #60secreview. The #bookstagram community is a great bunch of people to interact with, many of its members being young, keen readers. Many authors are approachable on social media, and are often happy to respond to tweets or posts about their books. It can be very exciting for a student when the author of a book they have commented on replies to them personally via a class or library Twitter account.

School librarians and teachers are sharing books on Instagram too. Glenthorne High School’s account is a particularly good example of how you can do this to best effect. Something I enjoy taking part in are book challenges, where you take a different photo on a daily bookish theme, like this recent one set by @CILIPSLG (https://www.instagram.com/p/Bw5Qfdbn_oF/).

I have often been asked if I think that paper books will ever be replaced by ebooks, and the very idea of this happening sends a cold shiver down my spine. But, to be honest, I don’t really care how my students access books as long as they are reading! It’s very satisfying when you can marry a love for technology with a passion for reading, however, and digital media is a powerful weapon in our fight to enthuse reluctant readers.

Image credits

Photo sourced from Unsplash

Bev Humphrey

Literacy & Technology Consultant Founder Write Path International Collaborative Writing Project

Editor of SLA Digital & SLA Website Content Manager

Bev Humphrey runs an international collaborative writing project, The Write Path, and she is always looking for more schools to join the fun www.writepathint.com. Visit www.bevhumphrey.com and follow @Libwithattitude on Twitter.