Teen Read Week: Board Game Collection Encourages English Language Learners To “Read For the Fun of It”

Every year the Teen Read Week Committee selects the recipients of the Teen Read Week grants funded by contributions from YALSA and Dollar General.   Cynthia Shutts at the White Oak Public Library (IL) was awarded one of this year’s Teen Read Week grants to create a circulating board game collection that focused on literacy skills to encourage the English Language Learners in the community to ‘Read for the Fun of It’. I spoke with Shutts recently to discuss the Teen Read Week Grant process, and evaluate the outcomes of the grant-funded program.

Shutts used Teen Read Week Grant funds to purchase a circulating board game collection focusing on literacy-based games. The White Oak Library plans to market this new collection to English as Second Language classes and other patrons who are learning English. The Library held a game night launch program during Teen Read Week. Shutts expects word to grow slowly but steadily about the game collection. The Library has promoted this new collection through many avenues, but the hope is that word of mouth will help increase knowledge of this service.  By launching the board game collection during Teen Read Week, the hope was that teens and their families would come to the launch night.

The Illinois state budget crisis has hit White Oak Library hard, and because of this the programming budgets had been cut deeply. It would not have been possible to start this program without the generous grant from YALSA and Dollar General. Shutts used the Teen Programming Guidelines, and focused on aligning programs with community and library priorities. The White Oak Library has recently updated its strategic plan to include increased support for second language learners. The Library started conversation clubs and are adding a lot of books in Spanish to the Library’s collection. The next step in this plan was creating a collection focusing on literacy games.

As Shutts developed this program, she received a lot of help from coworkers who had learned English as a second language or came from households where other languages were spoken regularly.  During the interview Shutts mentioned two of the White Oak Library’s circulation clerks by name, Anna Szuba and Olivia Tavares, who translated the programming surveys into Polish and Spanish. Shutts also mentioned that her coworkers were amazing with helping spread the word about the new circulating board games collection that was created as a result of the Teen Read Week Grant.

When I asked Shutts if she would consider the program a success, this is what she had to say: “I was very excited. I think it has been a success so far.  At the launch event we had a group of teens who learned English as a second language come and play with the games. They loved playing a modified version of Jenga where they take a tile out and have to come up with a word they starts with the letter on the tile. I am certainly going to continue to use the circulating game collection and spread the word about it. I am so grateful to YALSA and Dollar General.” What a stellar endorsement for the impact that a Teen Read Week Grant can have on a community!

Finally, I asked Shutts if she had any advice for those considering a Teen Read Week Grant application. “I would let them know that writing from their hearts works. Talk about the patrons you serve. They are the most important part of writing a grant. Everything we do as librarians should be for our patrons.”

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Cynthia Shutts for a creative interpretation of this year’s Teen Read Week theme of “Read for the Fun of It”, which incorporated a playful element of literacy beyond books AND helped the White Oak Library meet the literacy needs of English Language Learners.

Well Done! Help give us the opportunity to improve future Teen Read Week initiatives and share your input with YALSA to make the next TRW even better: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TRW16.

Melissa West is the Teen Librarian at the Kennebunk Free Library in southern Maine. In addition to her work on YALSA’s Teen Read Week Committee, she was recently selected to be part of the ALA’s Emerging Leaders Class of 2017.

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