Three years ago, when Michael was finishing fourth grade, he was a reluctant reader. His mother couldn't get him to read the back of the cereal box - let alone a book or a magazine. Then, while he was on summer vacation, he discovered "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" in a daily serial format on Funbrain (www.Funbrain.com), a learning-based online publisher for kids. Starting that summer, Michael enthusiastically logged on to Funbrain every week to read the latest adventures of Greg, a seventh grader, and the protagonist of this successful online children’s book.
Michael wasn’t alone. More than 70,000 different kids read “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid” every day, and nearly 40 million kids have read it since it appeared online in May 2004. While the online book edition of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” has already likely topped out as the most read children’s book in America, the print version of “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid” (published by Amulet, an imprint of Harry N. Abrams Publishing) had its first appearance on “The New York Times Book Review Children’s Best Sellers List” last Sunday in the number seven slot – less than a month after its print debut.
“In my more than 25 years in the publishing industry, I have never seen anything as exciting as the online success of ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid,’" said Jess Brallier, publisher, Funbrain. “Kids are reading online – millions of them – and, as a result, the publishing paradigm is changing completely. Successful online fiction is driving the publication of print books and, best of all, kids who previously were reluctant readers are developing a love of reading because of the engaging way that online publications are designed and delivered.”
“The Diary of a Wimpy Kid” was written and illustrated by Jeff Kinney, a graphic artist and self-described “wimpy kid.” Since the online children’s book was launched in 2004, Kinney has received email from thousands of online readers and parents who are amazed at the way their reluctant readers have become enthusiastic readers since they started following Greg and reading about his misadventures online.
“Publishing is about connecting as many people as possible with good content and, in the process, being successful enough that you can afford to publish again and again,” said Brallier. “‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ is a new model for children’s publishing. The content is available free to an immense number of kids. They don’t have to come from a family that goes to bookstores or libraries or have money to buy a book. If kids have access to the Internet, they have access to this great content. It’s publishing at its best.”
To support teachers who want to use “Diary of the Wimpy Kid” in the classroom, TeacherVision (www.TeacherVision.com) published a number of enrichment activities. Teachers can use these resources to have their students explore plot and character development; develop creative writing projects, such as a song about Greg; as well as write a journal of their own.