All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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The MashUp: A Blog About Books For Teens

Jamie Watson: The MashUp Blogger

Jamie Watson is's consultant for young adult literature. Jamie is a reviewer for School Library Journal and she is active in the Young Adult Library Services Association, serving on several of its committees, including Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers and Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults. She is a librarian in suburban Baltimore.

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The Most Popular Books in the World?

July 16, 2008

The vampire series Twilight reached a new level of media attention this week, when it not only got two articles in the latest Entertainment Weekly--one for the books and one for the movie--but was pictured on the cover.

If you're not aware of Twilight at this point, and you know or work with teens, hurry and catch up! (disclaimer: I've only read the first one, and I'm trying to decide if I feel guilty for not reading them all, or feel fatigue from hearing so much about them!) Stephenie Meyer released Twilight, her first novel, in 2005, and in the three years since, she has released two more in the series. The fourth, and supposed final installment, Breaking Dawn, comes out August 2, and many bookstores are doing midnight releases, as with the Harry Potter releases.

The books feature teenage Bella and the love of her life, the vampire Edward. Teenage girls are the obvious target market, and make up the bulk of the fans, but don't think it stops there! I've heard of teenage guys reading it (maybe to get in with the girls) and the debates among young adult librarians on the relative merits of Edward, and the casting of the movie, have been as loud and passionate as a preteen at a Jonas Brothers concert! (And speaking of concerts, Meyer is actually touring like a rock star , with an opening act and everything! And several dates, including New York's 2000+ seat Nokia Theater are already sold out!

Somehow while writing this series, Meyer also found time to write the lengthy adult novel The Host. This is another romantic story, this time with a science fiction theme, rather than the horror trappings of Twilight. But again, teenage girls have been devouring this one, making it one of the most popular books talked about this year at ALA's Best Books for Young Adults teen session.

Despite my Twilight fatigue, I continue to feel thrilled when a young adult novel gets this much mainstream attention, and Twilight is the "new Harry Potter." And, it's a perfect escapist summer read!

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More on Reading vs. the Internet

July 11, 2008

After writing my last post about kids, reading and technology, I saw a recent study conducted by Scholastic and Yankelovich.

Results of the study confirm several of my theories from that posting:

  • Kids believe that technology will complement--not replace--book s
  • Trouble finding books they like is a key reason kids say they do not read more frequently. Mom is the top source for book suggestions for kids age 5-11, and friends are most influential among kids age 12-17, who also turn to the internet.

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MySpace pages and Facebooks

July  3, 2008

In the last few weeks, I feel like I've been bombarded with a new fear — that teens are using MySpace and other online social media rather than reading. And that this is harmful, making teens (and adults) dumber.

At the recent American Library Association conference, I attended a session about the future of libraries. At this meeting, I noticed a curious dichotomy: librarians are embracing MySpace and Facebook, making pages, and trying to meet kids where they are. However, "techies" at the event were encouraging libraries not to forget about the books!

Some studies show that the amount of time teens spend on reading is shrinking; yet, other research shows teens are buying books at a faster rate than ever before. So what's really going on?

I believe the truth is somewhere in between. Teens are reading less and they are on MySpace more. But many teens are using social networking sites to make connections with authors (some of whom have profiles of their own) and to list their favorite books, something that both MySpace and Facebook feature prominently.

What is the responsibility of those of us who love books and reading? Continue to learn about good books and share your enthusiasm with teens, but don't rail against the new technology. For more on this, read what first-time young adult novelist and "techie" Cory Doctorow has to say in Locus magazine.

Also stay tuned to information coming from YPulse. In just a few weeks, they will host their second YPulse mashup, a conference aimed at "reaching today's totally wired generation with technology." More importantly, YPulse will dedicate an entire preconference to books and reading!

Who says technology and print have to be separate?

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Listen Up!

June 22, 2008

June is designated Audiobook month by the Audio Publishers Association. Each June, this organization gives out Audie Awards for excellence in audiobooks. This year's winner for ages 12-up was Bloody Jack and you can hear clips of this pirate adventure--and other winners--on the Audio Publishers website.

Some teachers and parents have viewed audiobooks as "cheating," but research is dispelling that notion. And, who among us doesn't have fond feelings of being read aloud to, whether by a parent, teacher or older sibling? Also, as adults become commuters with longer and longer drives, many of them have turned to audiobooks and discovered the joys of listening to a well-told story.

One of the librarians at the forefront of the audiobook movement is Mary Burkey, a middle-school librarian, who maintains a blog that keeps audiobooks fans up to date with news and new releases.

Burkey was also the chair of ALA's first Odyssey Award committee, given to Jazz. This recording is a perfect example of how words, pictures, and music can work together to create a real multimedia learning experience. The Young Adult Services division of ALA also recognizes Amazing Audiobooks each year.

Audiobooks are available in a variety of formats. In addition to the original "books on tape" format, there are cds, downloadable files through, iTunes, and a variety of library services. There are also Playaways, self contained mp3 players available now at many libraries.

June is a perfect time for Audiobook listening. It can take practice though--one of the common complaints is that it's tough to pay attention while driving, doing housework, etc. But once you find the book that grabs you, you will be hooked! For me, Jeremy Irons reading Lolita was the book that did the trick, but use the lists above, or my list of suggested favorites to begin your audiobook adventure.

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