I can’t remember when I first heard the term social media influencer. Probably in the context of a reality star or the latest Internet fad. I think I rolled my eyes when I heard that someone could make a career out of it. But in the wake of the college admissions scandal, the term entered the public conscious because one of the celebrities caught in the media glare has a daughter who is/was one. Headlines asked the question: Is being a social media influencer enough to get you into college? Often dismissed as another form of today’s narcissism, the article states colleges consider how an influencer chooses to use their influence to “positively impact the lives of others” (Fink 2019).
We educators struggle to make connections with students. We know our instruction, ideas, and suggestions to them are more readily adopted if they value our opinion and advice. Social media can create or block our efforts if students spend significant time online on platforms where we are not. Another hurdle is as students become older, “peer groups gain a special power to influence their behavior” (Steinberg and Monahan 2007). At the New York City Office of Library Services, we decided to design a grant to help librarians support reading by identifying and working with students to meet their peers where they are: Instagram!
The grant will offer secondary librarians access to a list of the latest NYC librarian-reviewed and vetted teen titles (nonfiction, series, graphic novels, and YA), a day of professional development on successfully using social media tools with book clubs, and how to identify reading influencers in their student book clubs. The librarians will encourage these influencers to harness the power of social media platforms like Instagram to post, share, and attract their peers to the diverse books they read and review. The grant offers printed reading passports to book clubs so students have a clear format to capture, review, and rate their reading across the library collection. Reading influencers will adapt these print gems to the dynamic online world of book trailers, images, memes, videos, and whatever other tools our savvy students develop!
Social media is an integral part of our students’ lives, vital to their future careers and identity. So why not give them a fun opportunity to build their digital portfolio by increasing independent reading and understanding across the world, one post at a time?
Fink, Jenni. 2019. “Is Being a Social Media Influencer Enough to Get You into College?” Newsweek (June 1). https://www.newsweek.com/social-media-influencer-college-admissions-1439912.
Steinberg, Laurence, and Kathryn C. Monahan. 2007. “Age Differences in Resistance to Peer Influence.” Developmental Psychology 43: 1531-1543.
Author: Leanne Ellis
I am a School Library Instructional Coordinator for the New York City Department of Education’s Office of Literacy, AIS, and Library Services. I plan and deliver workshops, provide on-site instructional and program support to school librarians, coordinate programs, administer grants, and just started facilitating an online course on Information Literacy for Spring 2019.