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I spent last Wednesday watching my 11-year-old cousin, Ryan, at the neighborhood pool. On our walk back to his home, I asked Ryan what he and his friends like to do when they get together, outside of the pool of course.
Ryan gave it some thought and told me, “Um, YouTube.”
“YouTube?” I asked, not fully understanding. “Do you make any videos online?”
“Not really,” he said. “Just watching.”
As an adult wary of screens, this bothered me. As soon as we walked through the front door, Ryan made a hard left turn into the den, where his iPad lay waiting on the charger. He promptly resumed watching an hour-long Vine compilation video and had 35 minutes left.
I’ve previously discussed how a parent’s screen-time habits can affect their children’s viewing as well. As an adult bookworm, one question in particular keeps me up at night: When - and what - are today’s children reading?
The time I spent as a kid under the covers with a soft yellow light and a book has been replaced by the glare of a blue screen. Is there a way to bridge the gap between the passive act of viewership and the active one of reading? Thankfully, yes.
I recently discovered a YouTube community committed to all things literary. Let me introduce you to BookTube: the video streaming platform’s reading community.
In the same mold of video content from beauty gurus, there are hundreds of videos published by literary enthusiasts, ready to educate the masses on their favorite reads.
Often, these vloggers direct their content toward discussing and reviewing books for younger readers. In fact, most of the BookTube channels I checked out primarily focus on my favorite genre: young adult literature.
Like any other community, whether virtual or real, BookTube has its own set of guidelines. While creativity is encouraged, videos frequently fall into categories like “book reviews,” “hauls,” and “bookshelf tours.”
In addition to categories, the BookTube universe also has its own vocabulary. For instance, a video about a “haul,” implies that the BookTuber has just received a ton of books and is ready to discuss which ones he or she will read (or won’t) and why.
BookTubers will also collaborate and decide on a “Book of the Month” with a planned discussion date, challenging viewers to finish the book and participate in an interactive livestream by leaving comments on a video page.
But what are the educational benefits for your child watching a video about reading books? Luckily, Christine Riccio, BookTube’s most-popular vlogger with 395,000 subscribers, had an answer. “BookTube makes you read books and books make you smarter,” Riccio explained in a video posted by Ariel Tissett, another BookTuber who tackled the question: “Is BookTube Educational?”
I still couldn’t understand how BookTube “makes” readers want to open a book. But as another vlogger Jesse George told the New York Times, “If you’re not a big reader, [BookTube] inspires you to become one.”
After watching videos from Riccio, Tissett and George’s channels, I get it now. There is a passion in each BookTube video; these vloggers really love what they do and they strive to share their enthusiasm for reading with teens and pre-teens all across the globe. There is a sense of companionship - call it the modern-day book club.
Why should your child tune into the BookTube community? At the very least, it’s a way to find a book recommendation from a wide choice of options. After all, it just takes one book to ignite the spark in a young reader.