Literacy Educator Jeffrey Wilhelm Says Let Kids Read What They Want

Feb 21, 2014

Research shows that kids who read well do better in school and have a distinct advantage in developing communication and logical thinking skills. Avid readers also tend to be more engaged in the world around them.

But how do you get young people to want to read? Today’s guest, Jeffrey Wilhelm, believes that kids and adolescents should be allowed to choose at least some of the books they read for school, so that their reading adds meaning to their lives.

Dr. Wilhelm is an internationally known teacher, author and presenter, and the founding director of the Boise State Writing Project. His new book, Reading Unbound: Why Kids Need to Read What They Want — And Why We Should Let Them, argues that books normally categorized as on the fringe can engage young readers and promote imagination, satisfaction and social action.

In Reading Unbound, Wilhelm and co-author Michael W. Smith analyze popular teen genres, from romance to dystopian fiction to horror, and explain what makes them so attractive to young readers. Each chapter also offers tips for educators on how to integrate these texts into the mainstream curriculum, and even use them to meet Common Core Standards.

Dr. Wilhelm joined Boise State’s faculty in 2003 and is a professor of English Education. He is the author or co-author of 24 books about literacy and literacy education, and he talked about some of his earlier research as a guest on our program in 2005.