Using Twitter to Inspire Teens to Write

Lucas Maxwell


Lucas Maxwell has been working with youth in libraries for over fifteen years. Originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, he's been a high school librarian in London, UK for over a decade. In 2017 he won the UK's School Librarian of the Year award and in 2022 he was named the UK Literacy Association's Reading For Pleasure Teacher Champion. He loves Dungeons & Dragons and is the author of Let's Roll: A Guide for Setting up Tabletop Roleplaying Games in Your School or Public Library. You can follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

It can be hard to inspire teens to write. Trust me, I work with them every single day as a school librarian and am constantly trying to ignite some sort of literary passion in them.

It’s tough, but over the past six months I’ve successfully inspired several teens to both read and write more.

The answer? Twitter. It happened by accident, I had a my student book club, who call themselves The Booklings, ready to Skype with an author when she tweeted me in a panic.

“Something’s wrong with my Skype!” she electronically shouted, “I can’t get it to work at all!”

After some failed attempts to troubleshoot the problem, I tweeted her back:

“Why don’t we just chat on this? I’ll let them ask you questions one by one.”

I opened up Twitter on the laptop and projected it onto the screen. The students loved it. They got real, one-on-one time with an author. They felt like their voice was heard and that someone was actually listening to them, not talking at them.

Author Laure Eve getting ready for #booklingschat

When it was over, one of them said, “We should do this again!”

I agreed, “We need to give it a name,” I said.

“Let’s call it Booklings Chat,” one of them said. And that was it, #booklingschat was born and quickly became one of my all-time favourite programs I’ve ever done in a library.

Our goal was to have one author a month, sometimes we’ve had three in a month but we’ve always had at least one. During each session I let the students use the Libray’s Twitter account to ask a question to the author that has agreed to be a part of the event.

Laura Dockrill

It’s so popular now that I’ve got students approaching me days before the chat giving me questions they want to ask the author.

Each time, the students ask for advice on how to write. I don’t prompt them, they just always ask. There’s nothing more an author likes than being asked this because we’ve had some really great responses.

It’s working. The teens that come in are taking part in more activities, being less shy and are sharing their writing more. I’m not saying that this program is some sort of magic elixir that makes everyone cool for school, but I know it’s helping.

The ultimate goal is of course to chat with JK Rowling or Stephen King. No luck yet, of course, even after I offered to rename our most reliable printer/copier, “The Rowling.”

Jeff Zentner

If you’d like to see more simply check out #booklingschat on Twitter or click here to see our chats on Storify.

I’d also love to hear more about how you connect your book clubs with authors. And if you haven’t yet, I recommend it, it’s a lot of fun.