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Good influencers! British TikTok sisters are encouraging teens to inculcate the habit of reading

Like other social-media platforms, TikTok has often associated itself with the worst excesses of the internet age.

But now it’s being credited with encouraging teens to get into the habit of reading — thanks to a corner of the service called Buktok.

Statistics show that the BookTok video has garnered over 43 billion views, with two British teen sisters being among its most popular influencers.

During last year’s lockdown, Mireille Lee, 16, and her sister, Elodie, 14, Hove, East Sussex, began posting short videos on the books they read.

His account @alifeofliterature attracted thousands of views, which soon swelled to millions. Each of his videos has been viewed by over 200,000 viewers worldwide.

During last year’s lockdown, Mireille Lee, 16, and her sister, Elodie, 14, (pictured) from Howe, East Sussex, started posting short videos on the books they read

Among her most popular posts are clips on Leo Tolstoy’s classic Anna Karenina and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

But it was a video on We Were Liars, a novel for young adults by E. Lockhart, that brought them to the attention of publishers and agents on both sides of the Atlantic. First published in 2014, it originally found moderate success in the US. But the Lee sisters’ video about the book was watched by more than seven million viewers, helping it top the New York Times bestseller list.

‘The speed with which our posts exploded took us by surprise,’ Elodie said. ‘In just a few weeks, we were getting hundreds of thousands of views and then millions. It was mind blowing especially seeing how it encourages people to buy the books we display.’

Miril, who wants to go to Oxford or Cambridge after her A-levels, explained that she and her sister have had to cut back on their Buktok activities after their school reopened following the lockdown.

She said: ‘We were reading a book every week and then creating video reviews for Buktok. When we went back to school it became even more difficult.

His account @alifeofliterature attracted thousands of views, which soon swelled to millions.  Each of his videos has been viewed by over 200,000 viewers worldwide.  Pictured: Mireille

His account @alifeofliterature attracted thousands of views, which soon swelled to millions. Each of his videos has been viewed by over 200,000 viewers worldwide. Pictured: Mireille

Along with readers from around the world, Mirrill said she is inspiring her fellow students at Blachington Mill School in Hove to pick up a book.

She said, ‘At school I’m called ‘The Book Girl’. ‘We want more and more young people to enjoy reading.’

Will Rycroft, audience development manager at Waterstones, said the publishing industry has now woken up to the power of Buktok.

“Romance is popular among booktokers, but stories from mythology, old myths and legends abound,” he said. ‘Perhaps it is because we live in uncertain times and there is something satisfying about knowing the beginning, middle and end.’

Mr Rycroft said Buktok also helped turn obscure texts into bestsellers, citing the example of a British crime novel called Cans Jawbone, first published in 1934 and largely forgotten went. The novel, by Edward Powis Mathers, is published with the pages in the wrong order. Readers who rearrange the pages in the correct order can solve six murders in the story.

The book was republished in 2019 and was expected to sell a few thousand copies but after a Buktok enthusiast made a video about it, it became a sell-out.

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