5 Novel Ways to Bring Back ‘Reading for Fun’

5 Novel Ways to Bring Back ‘Reading for Fun’

Explore the modern way to get your hands on good books.


As a child, the excuse I always heard from my peers was that reading was too boring. No one liked the idea of lounging around sifting through stories when they could lounge around and fidget with video game consoles. As a student, the dense required reading in English classes, followed by lectures, vocabulary quizzes and essays smothered my classmates to the point where reading suddenly became a chore. Even now in my senior year at one of the most prestigious liberal arts colleges in America, I still get various complaints about how no one could ever possibly have time to read and why not just watch The Game of Thrones on HBO instead?

At 21 years old I hate to play the part of the crusty old crotchbasket, but it appears that for people my age and younger, leafing through a book for pleasure has become just as outdated and unnecessary as sending letters through the mail. Even libraries have become obsolete as far as checking out books goes. Instead your parents’ childhood sanctuaries are now staying in business by running after-school programs and providing free computers for patrons to fill out online job applications.

But some schools and communities haven’t given up hope on how to bring back the archaic concept of ‘reading for fun.’ Students, teachers, parents and librarians have simply switched tactics by developing charming and technological trends to get children and adults back on the book bandwagon. So the next time you find yourself binge-watching Netflix for the third day in a row, change out of your sweatpants and look into these modern ways to get back into reading.

‘Call Me Ishmael’ Voicemail Service

Image courtesy of The Huffington Post.

If you’re looking for a gripping page-turner that will change your life, this Kickstarter campaign has got you covered. In 2014, two UGA undergrads – Logan Smalley and Stephanie Kent – imagined a whole new way to spread the word about great literature with Call Me Ishmael. This service provides a phone number that anyone can call to leave a voicemail about how a particular book impacted their life. Smalley and Kent then film themselves transcribing the voicemails on a vintage typewriter and publish the videos on their website. Hundreds of booklovers have since left messages for Call Me Ishmael and several videos are posted weekly.

Last year, Smalley and Kent took their idea to the next level by developing a rotary-style payphone to be placed in literary venues for people to listen to curated messages about the best page-turners. This past summer the Call Me Ishmael engineers succeeded in launching these stylized phones in schools, colleges, libraries, bookstores and community centers across the country.

So skip scrolling through Goodreads.com and try searching for the nearest Call Me Ishmael payphone to listen to humorous and heartbreaking book reviews from local bibliophiles. Or hop on over to the Call Me Ishmael website and get a glimpse into how Judy Bloom inspired a family writing tradition that spanned across generations, or how “The Things They Carried” gave a daughter greater insight into the lives of her Iraq War veteran parents. The personal touch this revolutionary service provides is what motivates non-readers to come over to the smart side.

Book Bikes

Image courtesy of Mental Floss.

You know what they say, if you can’t bring the couch potatoes to the bookstore, than attach a bookcase to a bike and ride over to them. No really, some kickass librarians are actually doing this! Over the last few years, book bikes have taken off as an ingenious way to dish out reading material to undernourished literary communities a.k.a. “book desserts.” These “mobile libraries” consist of a bookcase attached to either the front or back end of a bicycle and can be ridden into public spaces as a charming way to deliver books directly to the people. Some book bikes even have Wi-Fi so that librarians or bookstore clerks can swipe a card for pedestrians to either buy or check out books. Patrons that check out books can return them to either the book bike or their local library.

Public libraries in Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago and other cities have already achieved widespread success by showing off their book bikes at schools, parks and local events. Who knows, maybe someday we’ll even have book motorbikes cruising through towns; a bookworm can dream right?

Book Vending Machines

Image courtesy of www.straitstimes.com.

Think about it; if literary advocates are pedaling mobile bookcases down Main Street, then they’re certainly not going to think twice about dispensing book vending machines in subways and airports. While this novel way to encourage reading may sound strange, the idea has actually been consistently revamped over the last 200 years, starting in 1822 when an English bookseller wanted to sell banned books while keeping his nose clean.

Nowadays, this booklover’s way to receive instant gratification has cropped up all over the world, including BooksActually’s vending machines in Singapore and the Warwickshire Library vending machine in the U.K. Book vending machines have been found in a variety of public places like libraries, grocery stores, churches, community centers and public transportation areas.

Perhaps the best example of the good a book vending machine can do is Random House and Jet Blue Airlines partnership, Soar with Reading, a program designed to encourage reading in young children by supplying book vending machines in five major U.S. cities experiencing a literary drought. This past summer, Soar with Reading devised an online voting competition where people from each of those cities – Detroit, Houston, Fort Lauderdale, New York and Los Angeles – could vote to select which city would win 100,000 children’s books. They even recruited Victoria Justice to be the spokeswoman for the “book battle” at SWR’s New York event and enlisted her again to create a video congratulating Detroit as the winning city.

Personally, I’d love to see some of these babies surface in my hometown or the SCAD Savannah and Atlanta campuses, along with more food-dispensing vending machines of course.

Little Free Library

Image courtesy of www.daybreakutuh.com.

Although this reading advocacy idea may not have the same panache as others on this list, Little Free Libraries are still a productive way to promote reading on a smaller scale. At first glance, these tiny outdoor bookshelves may look like elaborate mailboxes or birdfeeders, but actually Little Free Libraries offer the chance to set up a charming book exchange system in local communities. They can be found in neighborhoods or school playgrounds and allow anyone to borrow a book and return it, or exchange it with another novel that was gathering dust on a bookshelf anyways.

Little Free Library construction kits are available for purchase online, or can be put together on a shoestring budget. Building these educational and decorative boxes is a great family activity and serves the neighborhood well by encouraging reading right in our very own front yards.

The Telepoem Booth Project

Image courtesy of www.gofundme.com.

Southwest poets rejoice! The Telepoem Booth Project is an amazing technological feat that offers inspiring poetry to Flagstaff, Arizona civilians. Similar to the Call Me Ishmael Kickstarter, this project features an antique phone booth with a rotary-style phone that pedestrians can use to listen to a selection of 280 poems. The oral-poetry selection consists of 80 regional and international poets categorized in the telepoem book found in the booth. Think of it like a poetry jukebox – a piece of vintage technology that coincidentally can be found in Prague and London and is expanding to major cities like New York, Berlin and Venice. Plus, The Telepoem Booth Project’s small intimate space allows listeners to close the door on the outside world and immerse themselves in the written word, if only for a few minutes. Talk about a relaxing end to a stressful day!

Even though this wonderful piece of reading technology is restricted to Flagstaff, the concept is certainly able to span anywhere. Think of all the coffee shops, art museums, libraries and college campuses that are missing out on this sweet deal! Let’s just say I have my fingers crossed that this unique project will blow up soon in other cities.

It can be hard to make time to crack open a book, but with an open mind and modern advancements in literary advocacy, reading for fun may soon rise again to the top of the list of leisurely activities – if only to share the spotlight with Grand Theft Auto and Pokémon Go.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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