Compelling Storylines, Accessibility Feature Prominently in Getting Middle Schoolers to Read

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Studies show that kids read less as they get older. In fact, a little more than half of nine-year-olds (53%) read every day, but only 17% of 17-year-olds do. There are two important parts of helping cultivate a love of reading and encouraging kids to do it. One is to know what stories kids like and will engage with, and the other is making sure that they have access to them.

Utah author Matthew J. Kirby sat down with the Deseret News to talk about writing for middle school aged students and what makes a good book.

Kirby, who wrote “The Arctic Code,” the debut novel in the Dark Gravity Sequence trilogy, says that what kids really look for is a good story. Before they develop preferences for genres — like science fiction, adventure, or drama — they’re interested in compelling characters and storylines.

“They just want a really good story,” Kirby explained. “If you don’t deliver them a good story, you’ve lost them.”

One of the problems with getting kids to read, however, is that many of them don’t have access to books at home — especially those who live in low-income families. The good news is that a new initiative launched by President Obama seeks to change that.

In an effort to improve literacy through digital connectivity for low-income students (called ConnectEd), President Obama announced that major book publishers are going to provide $250 million in free ebooks for them. According to The Huffington Post, he is also asking schools and local governments to provide all kids with library cards.

Though the initiative can help kids get access to books, there are a couple of flaws in it, says Utah Public Radio.

Access to ebooks requires two things that most low-income students don’t have access to: an internet connection and a device to read an ebook on. Part of ConnectEd, however, is helping make sure that 99% of public schools have broadband internet access in the next three years.

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