One of the first things I say to my students is “follow your passion.” Often they don’t know what their passion is, or they haven’t really taken time to explore things on their own, following instead what their friends or siblings have done or going through the motions of what their parents sign them up for. We have to give students room to explore what they like in order to discover what they love.
Yet, even if they have already explored on their own, they often get stuck in the same old routines they started out with. This is probably true of most of us. And I certainly found it to be true of myself as I began to cast about for new interests of my own when I had some time on my hands this summer. I’ve loved books ever since I turned the last page of a big volume of Winnie-the-Pooh when I was in third grade. I later discovered the joys of sharing my reading with others, and in the digital world I share with grownups, I discovered Goodreads, where I could connect with friends far and wide about our shared passion for reading.
Now, another interest of mine is photography. In one of my more avid periods, I shared actively on Flickr and participated in a group called 100 Strangers. The group provided feedback on my photos, but I felt a little constrained by its rules as well as shy about talking to the subjects I took pictures of, so I never got past photo #18. Since then, I’ve tried to be a little bit artful with my Facebook posts (I have a series of “... Sky” pictures going) and photos for blogs, and recently I’ve started to play around a bit on Instagram in order to understand the appeal of the social medium preferred by teenagers.
Then Came #bookstagram
Imagine my delight when I discovered #bookstagram! First, I learned about @tinybookreviews, by Nadia Goodman, from an article in the New York Times. (As it turns out, Goodman has the impressive job of social media director for TED. Just a little bit of wow here.) Goodman produces succinctly crafted posts about the books she’s read complemented with lovely photos of the books themselves, frequently staged with interesting food items. A recent review of a book by Marie Helene Bertino called 2 a.m. at the Cat’s Pajamas paired a coffee cup that matched the book cover with something that looks like dirty socks or maybe fingerless mittens. Now, I was intrigued enough by the intro summary of the review (“On Christmas Eve Eve, a motley cast of spirited characters all wind up at the Cat's Pajamas, a legendary jazz club that's about to be shut down...”), but the perfectly framed photo really piqued my curiosity!
Then I stumbled upon #bookstagram, which is whole movement of book review/ still life photos rolled into one hashtag. Some of these photos provide amazing portraits of reading lives, others are elaborate responses to book/photo challenges, and some are just snaps of what folks are reading now. Anyhow, I was inspired to create my first very basic #bookstagram (no review, I was giddy about joining the fun), but even more so to discover a weird and wonderful community of lovers of books, design, and photography. I’m definitely intrigued enough to want to play in this sandbox.
For an introduction, see “How to Get Fabulously Started on Bookstagram” by Cait at Paper Fury. Other bibliophiliac hashtags include #instareads, #igreads and the more obvious #fiction and #books . Or just pay attention to the hashtags used by other bookstagrammers, as they call themselves.
Word and Book Love!
If, like me, you are a hopeless nerd when it comes to writing, language, words, and books, here are some more hashtags to explore on Instagram:
#shelfie (you got it, pictures of bookshelves)
#challengebookamajig (a photo challenge for the month of August with different prompts for each day, including a Bookish Playlist for August 19th and Broken Book Spine for August 20th), which seems to have originated with readsleepfangirl and alittlebookworld and maybe some others.
The excitement I feel about this kind of sharing is palpable, though I feel a bit overwhelmed. Where do I start? I’m also thinking, so what else am I missing out on? And what if we infected our students with this kind of excitement about reading and learning? How can we use #bookstagram in the classroom to generate interest, engagement, and thought? Here are some ideas:
Create a #bookstagram account for your classroom or school library. Students too young for social media can create the pictures and write the text that you post and then share with their millennial parents.
Implement a #bookstagram summer reading book challenge for the first five days of school. Instead of having your students write summaries or create the usual posters that end up in the school dumpster or at the back of your closet, give students the opportunity to compose photos (a to discuss the choices that go into composition) based on the five elements of fiction. For instance,
(1) #bookstagram from a character’s perspective;
(2) use props (or Peeps) to recreate a turning point in the plot, and so forth.
#bookstagram throughout the year in place of boring reading logs.
Jazz up your literature circles or reading workshops with reading challenge, such as a Pokemon Go! mashup to promote your last read or a celebration of your favorite book to generate more readers or a picture of the perfect reading environment.
Any of these things would keep my reading adrenaline rush going. What do you think? Share your ideas with me on Instagram?