Pemberton Community Library’s Teen Summer Learning Programs: Dollar General Grant Winner

The Pemberton Community Library, a branch of the Burlington County Library System in New Jersey, hosted two teen programs to provide opportunities for continued learning this summer with SAT Practice Test Prep sessions and a weekly Teen Summer Reading Book Club. Both of these programs were made possible thanks to YALSA and Dollar General!

Offering a six session SAT Practice Test Prep course to teens interested in taking the test during the upcoming school year or have previously taken the SAT and wanting to improve their scores proved to be successful. Many teens attending the local high school would not have the opportunity to attend a similar course to improve their score or raise their confidence in their test-taking ability due to the cost or time limitations during a school year. The participants ranged in grade level from entering 9th to 12th grade with about half of them having previously taken the SAT.

The class covered a general overview of the SAT, with a focus on writing samples, reading, language, grammar, math, and essay analysis. The instructor was able to provide individualized attention to each participant, which was acknowledged with positive comments from the participants in the survey at the end of the course. The review of basic skills for each section helped them focus on the parts that would be covered on the test. A review of Learning Express, the library’s online test prep database, was also included in the course to introduce participants to this otherwise unfamiliar library service. Now that they know this database is available to them with their library card, they plan to use the database for their continued test preparation.

Over the six weeks, having taken many of the practice tests provided in the SAT workbook, one student reported that his score increased by 60 points from the beginning of the course. Given the tools for continued test preparation, we hope that the participants will be able to tackle the SAT with renewed confidence. After this experience and exposure to one of the library’s most valued databases, we also hope the participants remember the tools the library has to offer for helping them further their education goals.

The second program held over the summer meant to encourage teens attending the local high school to complete their required summer reading. The local high school participates in the One Book One School initiative for their summer reading title each year, so the chosen title for our Teen Summer Reading Book Club was Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. We provided refreshments and coloring each week while we listened to the audiobook. Each participant received a copy of the book to read along as they listened to the story of Wade Watts, a teen on a competitive search for an Easter Egg in a video game left by a deceased billionaire to hopefully win his fortune. At the end of each book club meeting, we discussed what was read. Commenting and questions were also asked throughout listening to the book and this was encouraged to support their reading comprehension and confidence in discussing what they were reading with peers.

This program featured the One Book One School title, but was not limited to students attending the school that assigned the book. Any high school student was able to share in reading and discussing each week. While many were from the local high school, one teen was homeschooled. This was an enjoyable experience and gave teens a chance to become more comfortable with peers as they discussed the book. With both programs, we hope the teens that participated gained confidence in themselves and feel more comfortable around their peers and this carries over into the new school year. Providing these opportunities that might not exist elsewhere during the summer break from school was rewarding and we will consider offering them throughout the school year as well.

Theresa Preziosa is a Youth Services Librarian at the Pemberton Branch of the Burlington County Library System. She started there as a student assistant in high school and loved the library so much, she decided to become a librarian when she grew up.

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