, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 256-273
Date: 04 Jun 2011

New Literacies and Multimediacy: The Immersive Universe of The 39 Clues

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The 39 Clues (2009) is a multimedia series produced by Scholastic for readers 7–14 years old that includes printed texts released periodically; trading cards also published periodically in print and virtually; and a complex, intriguing, and entertaining website. To fully experience the multimedia series, the publishers expect that readers can read printed text, negotiate the website that blurs the boundaries between history and fiction, author, character, and reader, compete for prizes, and build online communities. The more able a reader is to use multiple media sources for her own purposes, the more likely she is to reach the end goal of solving the central mystery of the series and win cash prizes. We found that The 39 Clues is a unique instantiation of new literacies (e.g. Knobel and Lankshear, A New Literacies Sampler, 2007) in action.

Diane Carver Sekeres studied at the University of Georgia, receiving a PhD in Language Education in 2003. Currently, she teaches in the Literacy and Elementary Education Programs at the University of Alabama. Her research on children’s literature explores the interplay between economics and religious imperatives in the production of faith-based literature for children, market influences on children’s publishing and multimedia series, and instructional uses of children’s books in the classroom and in home education.
Christopher Watson attended the University of North Carolina Asheville, receiving a BA in Literature. He is currently a student in the University of Alabama Alternative Certification Master’s Program for Secondary Education. He has collaborated extensively with Dr. Sekeres on her research related to The 39 Clues, providing insight into the culture and nature of video games as well as relevant critical theory frameworks.
The authors appreciate the help of Dr. Sekeres' writing group in conceptualizing and completing this manuscript: Aaron Kuntz, Karen Spector, Robert Summers, and Charlotte Mundy.