Story Shares – Bringing “Relevant Reads” to Teens and Young Adults Who Struggle with Reading
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, as many as ninety million American adults read at a basic or below basic level. Unacceptable numbers of high school students do not read proficiently, with seventy percent of high school students needing some form of reading remediation, and, even worse, several studies have shown that rates of reading proficiency among young people have been declining.
Addressing the problem of literacy in the teen and young adult demographic poses unique challenges for educators, parents, and young adult readers, because books that are written for children who are learning to read hold little interest for teens and young adults. The themes, subjects, and stories that appeal to young children are inappropriate for more mature readers, who share the same tastes and interests as their more literate peers, but lack the skills to enjoy the reading materials that are available to a typical young adult audience. This inevitably leads to boredom and even more frustration with reading, problems which are further compounded as teens grow older.
Story Shares (www.storyshares.org) seeks to address these issues through its growing library of “Relevant Reads” – titles that are “hard to put down but easy to read.” These books – contributed entirely by volunteer authors – explore characters and conflicts that are compelling to teens and young adults, but at a difficulty level that is more appropriate to these developing readers.
For example, writers are encouraged to craft short sentences, chapters and paragraphs, making the reading experience less overwhelming. They are instructed to utilize more common words and repetitive vocabulary to promote comprehension, and to provide context clues to help readers deduce the meaning of unfamiliar words. Above all, they are asked to create stories that are relatable and culturally relevant for teens and young adults.
Volunteer author Lori Schafer’s Brother No More offers a good example. “An inner-city girl dies… and her big brother is reborn,” reads the blurb. Here is the first chapter:
Teen readers respond well to these kinds of stories. As one reviewer writes in regards to Brother No More, “Damn…that was….there are literally no words to describe it but wow.”
Not only do Story Shares stories fill a gaping hole in the market of educational materials available to emerging young adult readers, but they work with print and digital technology in a way that makes them easily accessible to teens. Books are available both as paperbacks and as free eBooks that take advantage of modern interactive website design. Stories come in a variety of genres, including horror/mystery, romance, fantasy & scifi, historical fiction, and nonfiction, and there’s even a collection of books “For Teens, By Teens” contributed by those who want to hone their skills at writing!
Story Shares always welcomes new writers as well as new readers; writers interested in contributing their own Story Shares stories are encouraged to consult the writer’s guidelines. Anyone can help to promote the program by sharing this post on social media and by following Story Shares on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Linked In.
Story Shares is a qualified 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization and welcomes tax-deductible contributions to support its efforts. All proceeds from its paperback book sales go directly towards crowd-sourcing new content for the Story Shares library and identifying readers in need of new tools for improving their literacy. Books in the paperback collection are being offered at the discounted price of $9.99 through the end of 2017 and may be purchased online through Lulu.com. Bulk discounts are also available with purchases of 15 books or more; parents, readers and educators interested in bulk paperback purchases may contact email@example.com for more information.
Books that are compelling, approachable, and relatable… these are the qualities that promote a love of reading in readers of all ages. Story Shares seeks to ensure that the next generation of young adult readers learns to read proficiently for the best reason of all – because there is no better way to spend an afternoon or an evening than with a good story.
Lori Schafer is the author of the award-winning memoir On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years after It Happened and a volunteer author for Story Shares. Her young adult book Brother No More is available in both eBook and paperback; you can discover other titles on her website at lorilschafer.com.