Welcome to Teen Read Week 2008. Did you know that teens who read for fun have better scores on standardized tests and are more likely to succeed in the workforce? It is true and more than 4,800 school and public libraries are participating in Teen Read Week this year to celebrate teen readers!
No one will tell you that it is easy these days to pull the "digital natives" away from their video games and YouTube and get them to strike up a relationship with pictureless chains of black print, but it is possible. I watched teen girls stop and stare into a book store window last month the day Brisingr was released (the third book by Christopher Paolini), and participated 100% in reading Breaking Dawn the day it went on the shelves in August - actually I purchased three so each of my daughters could read it at camp, and then we donated two copies to a local school library.
No matter how alluring the visual media is, teens are still looking for their soulmates and stories that inspire them. I do not think that any video game can inspire a 13-year old the way House of Mango Street does, and I will never forget watching my 16 year-old listen to parts of "How to breathe under water," by Julie Orringer. Her face is disbelief as she heard the dark and beautiful stories woven by the author. What teens read has to touch them and carry them along with an emotion, a feeling, a desire to turn the next page - and compete with video games!
Our youth are worried about cloning, over population, economic chaos, alternate fuels, global warming, sweat shops, child trafficking, and extinction, topics that just aren't touched by the classics. I bet letting kids pick the books to read in literature classes might just help them buy into the whole process!
Meanwhile, encourage a teen to read this week - better yet, read out loud with one!