10/18/01
Teen INK
    by Rosie Russo

Whether it's Teen Read Week or a week during summer vacation when it's rained every day and there is nothing - absolutely nothing - (well except maybe washing dishes, vacuuming, laundry and changing the kitty litter boxes - you know, NOTHING to do, the old (and slightly modified) saying holds true. you can bring books to teens but you can't make 'em read them. Believe me, I know: We have a teenager in our household. And what my son shows me every day is that Teens are just like the rest of us --if they aren't required to read something in particular, they will read whatever they like whenever it pleases them - and MOSTLY what pleases them is on a computer screen. Still, you've got to try. Reading is like a muscle. One has to exercise that rippling reading muscle in order to stay in fine - and I mean FINE--mental shape. (I use the ploy "Hey, son, want to bench press Crime and Punishment? or How about 50 sit-ups with War & Peace balanced on your bent knees?" Anything to pique interest.)

One of the ways that you can get your electronically plugged-in adolescent turned on to the written word is with TeenInk, the books. These large, inexpensive paperbacks are outgrowths of TeenInk Magazine, which you can check out on their website at www.TeenInk.com. What will be interesting about the magazine and these books from a teenager's perspective is that the writings are all by young people like themselves from across the country. None of the personal narratives and works of fiction and poetry collected here are longer than a few pages. They are written simply and compellingly from the hearts of young people who are finding their voices by reaching out to an audience of their peers. They write about the things that are on their minds -- friendship, family, love, dating -- the whole wild roller coaster ride of adolescent emotions! They write about their challenges and breakthroughs and about their heroes. One writer describes the life lesson that she learned from a six-year-old in the day camp where she was a counselor. Another tells the story of her father's astonishing heroism at the site of a terrible traffic accident. There is an abiding, truthful energy in these pages that every writer, young or old, needs. Maybe these aren't the works of the next Homer or Jane Austen or Charles Dickens. But how do you know? I mean, once upon a time, they were teenagers, too. You know the old saying: you can bring books to teenagers but you can't make them read them -- whether it's Teen Read Week or even a week during summer vacation when it's rained every day all their friends are away. Believe me, I know: we have a teenager in our household. And what my son shows me every day is that Teens are just like adults in this way -- if they aren't required to read something in particular, they'll read what they like when it pleases them. Still, one's got to try. Reading is a muscle like any other -- it should be exercised to stay strong and flexible.

One of the ways that it may be possible to get your electronically plugged-in adolescent plugged into the written word is with the two volumes that have appeared so far of TeenInk. These large, inexpensive paperbacks are an outgrowth of TeenInk Magazine, which you can check out on their website at www.TeenInk.com. What will hopefully be interesting about the magazine and these books, from a teenager's perspective, is that the writings are all by young people like themselves from across the country. None of the dozens of personal narratives and works of fiction and poetry collected here are longer than a few pages, and they are written simply and compelling from the hearts of young people who are finding their voices by reaching out to an audience of their peers. They write about the things that are on their minds -- friendship, family, love, dating, the roller coaster of adolescent emotions, and the losses they have experienced -- of parents to divorce and grandparents to illness and of friends to the hard and often unforgiving knocks of life. But these young authors also write about their challenges and breakthroughs, and about their heroes. One writer describes the life lesson that she learned from a six-year-old in the day camp where she was a counsellor, and another tells the story, in matter-of-fact prose of her father's astonishing heroism at the site of a terrible traffic accident. These probably aren't the works of the next Homer or Jane Austen or Charles Dickens. But who knows? And even though most teenagers won't become great writers, there is an abiding, truthful energy in these pages that every writer, young or old, and especially every great writer

Copyright 2001 by Rosie Russo

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Wednesday, 04-Sep-2002 22:24:43 EDT


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