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BookTubers: Community Builders? Who Knew

Down the rabbit hole image is ©2014 by Eugenio Frimo and used under Royalty Free license agreement.

One of my personal flaws is that I get trapped into falling down virtual rabbit holes. I am often amazed at where I end up compared to where I began. What starts out Googling "Healthy Desserts and Snacks" can end with me figuring out the best time to go whale watching in the Antarctic (note: I currently have zero plans to go to the Antarctic, but in case you're wondering, it's February - early March). Not sure how that progression happened, but there it is.

Yesterday was a big rabbit hole type of day. I'm reading a sensational book, Social LEADia by Jennifer Casa-Todd (an overview of the book to follow), and she writes a section about the fact that a variety of YouTubers are role models for our students much like Wayne Gretzky was our role model when we were younger (Jennifer Casa-Todd and I, apparently, had very similar heroes of our youth). She goes on to say that students, when asked, are quick to share their favourite YouTubers and they explain why they look up to these video-creating celebrities.

And here's where my rabbit hole began: Casa-Todd ends an insightful yet hefty paragraph with, "I actually didn't know there was such a thing as 'booktubers' (young people sharing their passion for books they're reading) until I asked students about it,..." (1) No mention of 'booktubers' before and no mention of 'booktubers' after. That single sentence was all it took. As a former literature teacher, I HAD to know more. I exited Kindle and headed straight to Google and YouTube...uh oh.

Well, it's the day after I started down the trail and here's what I've discovered: There is a HUGE online community of BookTubers (a bazillion-give or take two). Here, people gather to share their reviews, analysis, comparative studies, genre studies, and other topics of books they've read or want to read. The discussions run the gamut. There's one BookTuber (Lucy Powrie) who is 18 years old (began when she was 12) has over 17K followers, and is featured in THE TIMES article, Meet the BookTubers - they're young, smart, and very well read. There's one BookTuber (Sasha) that has over 365K subscribers. And there's one (Sanne-also featured in THE TIMES article) that has created one of the most beautifully crafted poems, To All the Books I'll Never Read that has over 22K views. Oh, and FYI, her channel has 172K subscribers and her videos have been viewed over 13 million times!! What? BookTubers are a BIG deal!! I best pay attention.

So, of course, I watched a video of one BookTuber (Ariel Bisset). And then another of hers (she quickly became my favourite). And then someone else's. And someone else after that.

And I thought, How can we extend this idea into schools to create or develop existing communities?

And then the rabbit hole took an interesting turn: I Googled all the schools I used to work at to see what their YouTube communities looked like. Now while most of them have a school YouTube channel (yay!) or a member of staff posting school related material on their personal YouTube channel, most of the videos were showcasing student work or the nature of the school (all admirable videos to post). I could not find, however, a school specific community of people coming together via videos to share their thoughts, opinions, ideas of books / blogs / articles. Hmmm.

So I went to the website of an international school heralded for their technology integration and 21st century learning environment. I thought for sure they might have a YouTube channel / playlist that would support the BookTube-type of community I envision. Nope.

So then I thought, what IF schools were to build out BookTube channels of their own to reach various members of THEIR communities? What might that look like? Would there be a coming together of minds within the school community to create greater unity and focus? Would their be a greater appreciation and understanding of people's passions and where they're coming from? Would there be opportunity for collaboration between people who may not have otherwise known about their similar interests and views? I think the questions and possibilities are beautiful.

So, what might that look like? Well...

What if SCHOOL LIBRARIES had BookTube channels where librarians create Book Haul videos to introduce the new books (hard copy and eBooks) that would be intriguing to students, staff, and parents. What if librarians identified prolific readers (students, staff, or parents) and enlisted them to be BookTubers for the channel to provide reviews, analysis, genre studies, etc of the books they've read? What if there were BookTube videos to provide parents suggestions of books to buy for their children?

What if TEACHERS had BookTube channels for their classes? STUDENTS could create reviews, character analysis, chapter analysis, genre analysis videos to a) demonstrate their understanding of the book; b) inspire others to read the book; or c) provide insight to the book others may not have thought about. Students could collaborate with students from other classes or other grades to create a BookTube video comparing books/essays/articles and explore common themes throughout different types of literature. Oh the possibilities.

What if TEACHERS created a BookTube community that provided reviews of professional development books / blogs / articles / videos / courses and how those tools are shaping their teaching practice?

What if PARENTS were given the opportunity to create a BookTube community for parents to review parenting books / blogs / articles? Or travelling books / blogs / articles? Or education in general? Or the technology their children are into? Or whatever the interests of the group is.

What if PRINCIPALS were to create BookTube videos reviewing the books they're reading (for personal enjoyment or professional development) and then comment on how these books may be shaping their leadership style (if applicable) in the school?

What if I created BookTube videos of books / articles / blogs that are shaping MY practice and interaction with technology in education?

Now wouldn't that be an inspiring Total Tech-Over??

Well, in order to walk the talk, I've created my first ever BookTube video about Jennifer Casa-Todd's book, Social LEADia. Here goes... (Ms. Casa-Todd, if I mispronounce your name, I sincerely apologize)

Thanks for joining me down the rabbit hole. Until next time, be kind to yourself and others and keep moving forward.

1 Casa-Todd, Jennifer, Social LEADia, Kindle ed., Dave Burgess Consulting, 2017.

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