How Mr. Doodleburger, a cartoon hamburger, is changing how teens spend time online

I caught my teen.....reading?

Used with permission from Spellbound

If you read my works regularly, you know that I work with a lot of young readers and writers. I’ve seen it all. From kids spending our entire session trying to hide the fact they’re on Instagram while we’re talking or the kids who are so addicted to their phones they can’t even answer basic questions.

The Time Well Spent Movement Is Particularly Important For Teens

As somebody who witnesses this problem first hand, I think the time well spent movement is incredibly important for teens. Teens are developing and learning and figuring out how they want to behave and think during the duration of their lives.

What they do during their free time heavily influences that. I’m under the firm belief that if kids are pulling out their phone and mindlessly scrolling through an Instagram feed during their spare time, this becomes a habit that they won’t be able to lose.

That’s a big reason why I got into coaching young writers. It’s also why I post actively on a variety of online writing sites that reach teens.

I believe that writing and reading focuses the mind. When teens come to me and can’t finish even a short story because they want to play the next level of their mobile game or want to see what their friend is doing, I see a problem. After getting into regular reading, teens I’ve worked with get great sense of focus and control.

What is Mr. Doodleburger?

Mr. Doodleburger was a character that was introduced anonymously on one of the many writing sites I frequent called Commaful. The story was taken down a few months ago and recently resurfaced in fully illustrated form on an app called Spellbound. Seemed to me like a graphic novel (though I know they prefer the term multimedia fiction).

The story is about a hamburger that escapes from kitchen and goes on a crazy adventure. The series grew popular last year on the site and sources tell me the story will go for at least 10 parts.

The first part ended on a cliffhanger that led to the next part. As of this writing, it costs a few dollars to read the full story, but it’s well worth it for your kid if it means they’ll get into reading.

Why is this particular story so important?

I came across a few of my students reading the stories in my class the other week. On their own. Without me telling them to.

That is a first. I’d shown them a lot of stories in the past in an effort to get them excited. I showed them various reading apps like Wattpad. None of them piqued their interest. Yet, somehow this hamburger did the trick.

When I asked the a few of the students why they liked it, their answer stunned me. One of them said, “I don’t know. It feels like it was made with my sense of humor in mind. It’s funny. And I don’t have to analyze it or anything. Just laugh.”

I captures the heart of my last few years working in the field. We need to make reading feel fun. What it comes down to is the story. Can we find great stories that don’t feel like a chore to read, but feel fun and delightful.

I don’t have the answer for this yet, but in the meantime I know stories like Mr. Doodleburger and Captain Underpants are a great start. You can read Mr. Doodleburger on the Spellbound platform on iOS and Android.

I will keep you updated on what else I find.

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