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  • Yvonne Biggins

    Have any of you heard of It's a passions based creative community for young adults and teenagers focused on storytelling, based out of the UK, but most traffic comes from the US. Our goal is to make reading relevant and exciting again for teenagers and we think/we're starting to gather evidence that by embracing fanfiction and hooking young people in through their passions, a wider spread of teenagers are becoming interested in reading and writing. We have apps for android and iOS as teenagers spend most of their time on their phones.

    Personally I was inspired by Roald Dahl, Jane Austen and Emily Bronte when I was younger. It's great to see young people engaging with some of the classics again through Hank Green's Lizzie Bennet diaries on youtube. I really believe that format and channel is key for engaging with this age group.

    • Jonathan Goldberg

      Just checked it out, very cool. Will share with some of our teachers. The campaign just transitioned to voting on the top 10: Actually curious which ones this community would single out.

  • Terri Hammer

    I am a former bookstore owner and drama & literacy instructor, for school-aged kids, and a voracious reader, but to answer the question, I think young and older people alike should read whatever interests or sparks curiosity in them. Before I entered school I was so excited to learn to read and I was quickly turned off my the material chosen and presented to me - even in the children's section of my neighborhood library. Why it never occurred to me to venture into the adult section, but I did at home. One summer when I was around 10 and bored, I got to looking around my mother's bookshelves and spotted an interesting title, "The Love Machine" by Jacquelyn Susanne. Same author of, "Valley of the Dolls". That adult, sort of risqué material, really set me on path as a lifelong reader/learner. So, you just never know...

    • Jonathan Goldberg

      True, and thanks for sharing. There's no substitute for self-discovery. Part of the hope here is to go off road on the lists and generate new ones -- not just on the books but on the experiences that led them to become readers. Even though access to books at home or at the library can vary highly, you're right, sometimes it's just taking a chance on whatever you find and seeing what catches.

  • Khalfani Myrick

    I love this idea. I totally agree with Lindsey, asking kids what they think, love, and find interesting is key! I'm a TFA alum. I remember spending so much of my time asking my students about their interests and then tailoring math lessons, problems, and projects towards their interests. It made all the difference!

    • Jonathan Goldberg

      Khalfani - so cool to hear (about your tactics as much as TFA). Thanks for sharing, curious what you're up to now. Would also love to get your book rec at if you have a few secs.

  • LindseyHill

    I've read and reread your article, and shared it with everyone on my team - we are tackling the reading deficiency in children by addressing the underlying motivation to read--As the only former teacher on on the team, I spend my days in schools (in US and UK) doing just what you said: talking with kids about what they think, what they LOVE and find interesting. We're certain that interests get kids involved in what they love which in turn drives progress! We're getting ready to launch a reading platform that focuses on kids' keenest interests! I would really enjoy chatting with you offline on how we can learn more from you as well! Stay tuned . . .

    • Jonathan Goldberg

      Thanks so much for the comments. Pretty sure we've got more to learn from you guys, but would love to chat. I'll DM you on Twitter.

  • annabanana61

    Thank you so much for putting light on this very important topic. At Vision Literacy ( we have been raising awareness of the following in Santa Clara County…in the midst of Silicon Valley:


    • 1 in 5 Adults in Santa Clara County have low literacy skills
    • Only 49.8% of Santa Clara County graduates are eligible for college
    • 1 of 5 students in Santa Clara County drop out of High School
    • 23% of American adults cannot fill out a bank deposit slip correctly
    • 60% of America’s prison inmates are functionally illiterate and 85% of all juvenile offenders have reading problems
    • 50% of the nation’s unemployment youth age 16-21 are functionally illiterate, with virtually no prospects of obtaining good jobs
    • 85% of unwed mothers have low literacy skills

    Our children, our communities and our spirits deserve better! We can be a catalyst for change. Peace, Anna

    • Jonathan Goldberg

      Anna - thanks for the shout-out and incredible work you guys are doing. The stats are unconscionable. Would love to hear from your network about great reads at Would also like to connect separately on how we might learn from you.

  • Yasha Wallin

    Thanks for starting this discussion! I wonder what we as individuals can do to help encourage, or support teenage literacy on an ongoing basis? I will definitely go to, and is there something else we can do year round to help with this issue? Thanks!

    • Jonathan Goldberg

      Hey Yasha - we're working on longer-term ways to keep this going, but looking at thread (even just above), it seems like there are some great organizations doing similar work. I'll direct message you with some others.

  • Rehema Abdul

    Every teen should read Think Big by Ben Carson. I read it when I was 13 and used the book quite much in guiding me in my studies and life and I must day it made my teenage years quite easy. I read it again, more than 10 years later when I was trying to figure out about where I learnt the practices I got from earlier and it is still just as relevant. For an adventure story showing the butterfly effect, I will pick The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. It gives a whole different aspect to life, words and numbers.

  • L the Visionary

    The one book everyone should read is The Autobiography of Malcolm X...poignant, provocative, enraging, inspiring and clarifying.

      • L the Visionary

        Done! And by the way, you are doing a wonderfully necessary thing with your campaign! Keep walking in your purpose...

  • ecochimp

    Check out LitPick (! It's a site for young adults to discuss the best new books, sort of like Goodreads for YA lit. Literature actually reviewed by kids - a little boost to sparking that reading love affair.

    • Liz Dwyer

      That's a pretty cool site! Instead of having students fill out those book report form worksheets, they could totally submit reviews and connect with their peers, thus increasing the conversation around literature.

    • Jonathan Goldberg

      Ecochimp: Super cool. We'll share with our teachers. Thanks for the tip.

  • kelbell09

    As an educator (with experience at both the elementary and middle school level), this message of fostering a love of language and literacy from an early age and across the developmental spectrum is a critical one. Goodness knows, the research is clear (as shown here and across other studies). If a child does not read proficiently by the end of third grade, they will be four times less likely to graduate from high school by age 19 and will continue to experience negative academic and social consequences. Thank you for writing a piece shedding light on this critical issue.

    With that said, I wonder too, why Teach for America is mentioned at this post's beginning. While I hope it is simply a misplaced statement, I wonder the intention here...

    • Jonathan Goldberg

      Hi kelbell - Am grateful for your thoughts and kind words. This article relates to a literacy campaign TFA is running with a bunch of non-profit partners around a love of reading. That's it. Glad to chat more as you like.

      • kelbell09

        Thanks for the clarification, Jonathan. Here's hoping we continue to raise awareness about such critical issues as well as commit resources--time, money, and human capital--to successful interventions that support children's literacy development from birth to school-age and beyond.

  • Jeff Nelder

    I think every teen should read a book with specific cultural relevance to them locally. For teens in the US, I recommend "To Kill a Mockingbird" as a classic with deep relevance for the time in which it was written, as well as several lessons to never forget.

    • L the Visionary

      Absolutely! Then follow it up with the film "A Time to Kill"...makes for great critical analysis of race relations, perception, justice, etc. My high school students were fully engaged!

      • Ben Linderoth

        I am a South African and grew up in a bleak and impoverished neighbourhood, but despite these circumstances I developed a love for reading, this was my salvation. It gave me hope and a sense that there were worlds better than the one I lived in. Reading, The Old Man and the Sea and a poem changed my life and my destiny. It inspired in me the dream to travel, this for a girl growing up in such dire circumstances was almost an impossible dream. BUT I kept and reading, working and believing.....AND I am living proof that reading changes lives...FOREVER:):)

        • Jonathan Goldberg

          What a moving and motivational story. Thank you for sharing. What was the poem, if you remember?


  • danrmiles

    I'd say Lord of the Rings. It's so important to know that any one of us is capable of constructing entirely new worlds in our imagination; rather than worry about having to create pithy social comment or some direct reaction to our immediate environment. Reading that book unlocked a new dimension to my personality that, since becoming an adult, I have tried to nurture as much as possible. I

  • Rick Brooks

    Thanks for promoting this. Some thoughts: 1. Yes, it probably is simpler to select one book for everybody. But the reality is that one truth, one perspective or one author is not likely to be the best, the most inspirational or even the most interesting or transformational for all kinds of readers. That's why libraries, big and small, are so important. To Kill a Mockingbird is a wonderful book for many, maybe even for most children, youth and adults, especially if it is enhanced by meaningful discussion. Many books can offer that kind of value depending on the age, reading ability and motivations of the reader. But Shakespeare, Dickens and Dave Eggers, Maya Angelou or Julia Alvarez all have something powerful to offer for different reasons. Boys don't always like books written by or for girls and vice versa. And if I can make a pitch for physical books, having the pages and paper in your hands can make a big difference. So thank you again for this effort. A Kindle can be a great thing...and there is a whole world out there full of fantastic literature where each book that we "should" read can inform, teach, entertain and inspire us in unique ways. The best choice is whatever attracts you and keeps you wanting to read more--to find out what's going to happen next or to remember the important stuff that has already happened. Discovering such literature is a gift we can all cherish. And the more often that discovery can occur, the better. The search is more than half the pleasure. --Rick Brooks, Little Free Library.

    • Jonathan Goldberg

      Agreed totally. There's no "1 book." The joy of the campaign is the discussion around it - over 2000 nominations and counting. We could have simply bought a bunch of books to put in schools, but this way, people from all backgrounds can lend their voice by visiting (We'd love to hear from you too). This is not the end of the effort. It's the start of a longer conversation that tries to get at what you describe - a book for everyone. Thanks though for the really great thoughts.

    • R S

      I couldn't have said it better. Bravo.

  • minda.m.lopez

    what does this have to do with Teach for America?

    • Jonathan Goldberg

      Hi Minda - it could've been spelled out more clearly. That's on me. Teach For America is working with a bunch of non-profit partners to promote teen literacy here: We'd love to hear from folks far and wide about their favorite books.

  • Norafeld

    I remember in elementary school, not being able to put down 'Davita's Harp' by Chaim Potok.

  • Noel Jesudas

    "The Old Man and the Sea" - I remember smelling salt water reading that book.

  • Briana Myricks

    Wow I don't know if I can narrow it down to just one. Hmm. Teens, books, must read. I'd have to say Fahrenheit 451. Not only was it a good story, but it embodies why reading is so important in the first place.

  • Christina Walker

    My first favorite book was Bud, Not Buddy. Coincidentally, my first word was "bud"

  • Alessandra Rizzotti

    I gave my answer for a book that should be on the reading list. Jonathan Safran Foer's "Everything is Illuminated"-- but do you have any requirements/guidelines for what makes a good reading list book?

    • Jonathan Goldberg

      Hey Alessandra - no requirements other than it moved you. To give you a sense of range, we have To Kill A Mockingbird to Kitchen Confidential. Whatever gets most votes will rise to the top, but we're agnostic on the title. Just make sure you enter it at to have it heard - and share it out.