TRW ’12: Making Time for Fun

“If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more you do, the more you can do… and don’t you forget it!”
Lucille Ball

One of the biggest excuses/reasons I hear from my teens is that they just don’t have time to read!

These teens are too busy practicing, traveling to events, studying, and being involved with a myriad of other things that enrich their lives, help them be well rounded and will “look really great on their college resumes”.  When we think of reluctant readers, we don’t often think of advanced students, and yet – there is a reluctance there as well.

Busy students are busy.

Reading for fun doesn’t often pop-up in college applications, unless you are a member of a book club (and thank goodness for those). While some books are definitely great for college prep, (see YALSA’s list: Outstanding Books for the College Bound) the time allotted for leisure reading often gets buried under a quagmire of assignments and appointments.  I know of one English teacher that I work with in a public high school who actually assigns her advanced juniors to ‘read something for fun’. Unfortunately this assignment occurs only once a year (over winter break).

The reason I love and appreciate Teen Read Week is that it celebrates the act of reading for reasons that can’t be marked in test grades, state curriculum standards, and college applications. Many of my teens who are readers would say they read for the ‘feels’. For me ‘feels’ translates into the way a book can make them feel strong emotions, ones that in many ways mirror their own.

For teens who are “too busy to read” I have found success in doing two things – providing a good book talk which gets them hooked, and getting friends to talk about their reading experiences with each other. This week I hosted my first ‘If It Floats Your Boat‘ book talk event based on a great idea from Kelly Jensen (@catagator).  It was a blast- everyone who came left with a book, even the reluctant teens, because they “needed to know what happens”.

Those who don’t have time to read are not alone. A recent survey of time use stated Americans only spend about 16 minutes a day reading on the weekend, and this drops to 7 minutes during the week. Connecting readers with reading stars like LeBron James, following http://awesomepeoplereading.tumblr.com/, and of course ordering those amazing Celebrity Read Posters from the ALA Store is great, but don’t underestimate the power of engaging teens to talk to each other about why they are reading. A book club I help run after-school started with 4 readers, and has quadrupled, mainly due to word of mouth – teens talking to teens about reading great books. Teens will make time for things that are truly important to them – and I think having that element of peer encouragement can be essential to breaking into a busy person’s schedule (just look what it did for the Miami Heat Locker Room). Busy teens especially need to be asked to do this ‘something more’ by someone who matters to them.

What are some ways you encourage teens to make time to read for fun during Teen Read Week, (and every week)?

Sarah Russo, Teen Read Week 2012 Committee Member

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