What can you accomplish in 15 minutes? Drinking a cup of coffee? Updating your Facebook status? Checking out a graphic novel? If a teenager does either of the last two things, both of which involve reading, the effort can create tremendous educational benefits. Skeptical? Keep reading this blog post for another minute or two and you'll see how.
Teen Read Week™ which runs October 14-20, is a national literacy initiative from the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) aimed at inspiring teens to read for fun--on paper, online, on an e-reader--and to use their library to find great reading materials. The 2012 theme, "It Came From the Library," challenges readers to consider what lurks on library shelves: creepy mysteries; spooky horror stories; sordid tales of love and betrayal; eerie dystopic romances and mangas that exist both on the page and online; current events in popular media outlets that teens can read online. Libraries have all of this and more.
Parents, even some educators, might wonder why reading for fun is as important as reading for school. Multiple studies, including those presented in Nichole Lynnette Smith's "A Study of Middle Grades Students' Reading Interests, Habits, and Achievement," show that students who read for fun achieve more in school. Reading everything from novels and nonfiction books, to manga and websites, has a positive impact on teens' personal and educational lives.
Research also illustrates that for every 100,000 words read, a person's vocabulary increases by 50 percent. The average person can read 250 to 300 words per minute, which adds up to almost 31,500 words per week. A teen reading 15 minutes a day, therefore, could increase his or her vocabulary skills tremendously in just over three weeks. That's a pretty amazing literacy leap when you consider that it means reading for just 15 minutes a day. Teen Read Week encourages these kind of gains because reading boosts a young person's education.
John Green, the New York Times bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska and this year's Teen Read Week spokesperson, says his life was especially enriched by libraries and librarians. He discovered some of his favorite authors, including Toni Morrison, e.e. cummings and Michael Chabon, in his high school library. He has thousands and thousands of fans who love his books, and he has even more fans because of his notoriously hilarious Nerdfighters blog co-authored by his brother, Hank.
"Even though we live in this supposedly hyperconnected world, it's very easy to feel like no one ever really hears you or understands you," Green observes. "Great books help you understand, and they help you to feel understood."
Teens devour Green's books. They also read supernatural and dystopian romances. They're reading stories about themselves, their friends and their families. They're reading stories about far away places--imaginary worlds and real worlds that exist a mere plane ride away. They're reading about current events online. They're reading updates from their favorite celebrities, and what their friends are saying about them, on Twitter. They're sharing their favorite books with each other on Facebook. It's all reading and it all counts.
"Thanks for being awesome," Green says to all Teen Read Week participants. "There's something magical about the relationship between a reader and a writer, because the writer's story isn't really alive until you read it, and each individual who reads it makes it her own."
Where can teens find great materials to read for fun? By checking out YALSA's awesome lists of recommended books at www.ala.org/yalsa, or by downloading its free Teen Book Finder app for the iPhone. Teens, parents, caregivers and educators can also visit their local school or public library. The staff there can help teens find the right books, graphic novels, audiobooks and other materials for them and their families. Teen librarians are specifically trained to help young people, parents and educators match the right resource to the right teen. This is especially important since there are now more than 4,000 titles and resources published for teens in the United States each year, and that number is growing. By tapping into librarians' expertise, teens, parents and educators don't have to spend their limited time to try and figure out what's the best match for their reader. Librarians and libraries can do it for them.
Libraries--and there are more of them nationwide than there are McDonald's restaurants--offer reading materials as well as public programs encouraging teens to read that combine fun and learning. Thousands will participate in events inspired by this year's theme.
For example, the Newkirk High School Library, in Newkirk, Okla., will host a Community of Readers Book Club, and the Ocean County Library System, in southern New Jersey, will open its doors with a Maker Faire.
Teens at the Tulsa (Okla.) City-County Library will participate in a Zombie Prom. New York Times best-selling author Carrie Ryan, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, will join teens for a zombie costume and walk-off contest, an apocalypse survival box challenge, and zombie peg doll crafts.
Teen Read Week™ runs October 14-20, but its goal is to inspire lifelong readers and learners. Join the conversation about teen reading by participating in a tweet-a-thon on October 17th using the hashtag #TRW12.