A big thanks to YALSA Board Member Melissa McBride for kicking off August with a great list of tools to consider when you think about Teen Growth & Development, the first of the YALSA Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff. In addition to these many resources, be sure to check out the free webinar that was produced last year on the topic! Along with that, there are the many Teen Professional Tools provided on YALSA’s website, two of which are of particular interest to this competency: AMLE’s Development Characteristics of Young Adolescents, and the Search Institute’s Keep Connected series, focusing on Ages 15-18.
There are so many potential equity issues involving Teen Growth & Development! Probably the first and most obvious that will come to mind is the unequal ways in which teenagers’ bodies develop. One fairly well-known element is that cis teenage boys are known to develop at a slightly later age than their cis girl counterparts. But to date, little research has been done on how non-binary teens compare in terms of that development. And as this CNN article points out, “more teens are rejecting ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ gender identities.” The ways that individual teens develop at wildly different paces cannot be stressed enough. We recognize these differences (and likely remember them from our own adolescences), but in what ways do we acknowledge these differences without shining a spotlight on them? A lot has been discussed about the teen brain and issues of body image, but oddly enough there hasn’t been a lot of recent research on physical body differences. And an obvious example of how teens develop in a variety of ways is body weight.
Teens come in all shapes and sizes and must be served as individuals, rather than with preconceived, often negative notions of their health, eating habits, or genetics. Coming next month is an anthology edited by librarian and youth services expert Angie Manfredi called The (Other) F Word: a Celebration of the Fat & Fierce (Abrams/Amulet, ISBN: 9781419737503, 2019). Unique in its coverage, short vignettes by a number of authors, poets and others discuss the importance of “body image and fat acceptance”. In an interview on Matthew Winner’s The Children’s Book Podcast, Manfredi states that “we want to stress to teenagers that you are more than your body; and you do not have to be limited by what people say or judge about your body.” She describes the trouble with euphemisms like overweight and heavy-set, and how obese and BMI are two really problematic terms. Manfredi also wants to share the message that “your body is perfect, yes yours, exactly the way it is, right now, in this second, your body is perfect.” What an incredible reminder to library staff and the teens that you work with!
Thanks for reading and for the work you do for and with teens!
Todd Krueger, YALSA President 2019-2020 | Twitter @toddbcpl