Bringing the BFYA Teen Feedback Session to Kansas City

For any YALSA member, the Teen Feedback Session of Best Fiction for Young Adults is a highlight of attending ALA’s Annual Conference or Midwinter Meeting. It isn’t just getting the feedback on what titles teens liked from this year’s publishing cycle…but seeing teens up at the mic, sharing their thoughts with marketers, editors, agents and library staff. It’s empowering and reminds us why we do what we do. After experiencing the Midwinter 2017 BFYA Teen Feedback Session, we began to think about how we could get our teens to the conference at Annual.

Chicago and Denver are the closest ALA’s conference ever comes to Kansas City (although KC is a large city, we don’t have the conference facilities to host ALA)  That means our teens will never have the chance to experience and reap the benefits of  the BFYA Teen Feedback Session. They will never have the awesome power of addressing the committee and a room of library staff and publishers. And on a late spring day in Kansas City…we decided to change that.

Three YALSA members from two library systems – Amanda Barnhart from Kansas City Public Library (MO), and Peggy Hendershot and Kate McNair from Johnson County Library (KS) – came together to talk about the BFYA Teen Feedback Session. Our grand idea was to figure out a way to take teens to Chicago and get them on the mic…but soon learned that there are ample teens in Chicago waiting their turn and we wouldn’t steal their moment to speak up. We still wanted to empower our teens and give them the opportunity to speak out and be heard, so we went back to the drawing table and came up with an idea that would impact more teens than we could have fit into a van on a roadtrip to Chicago…

Talk Book To Me was born. In line with YALSA’s Futures Report goal of designing programs with teens’ passions and interests at the heart that are strongly connected to academic and career achievement, we identified four goals for the program. 1) Give teens the tools to analyze a book and express their thoughts in the form of a review. 2) Amplify their voices to BFYA committee members, editors, agents and library staff. 3) Unlock opportunities for teens to build a portfolio of accomplishments.

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Are You Ready for Teen Read Week?

Teen Read Week starts next week, but don’t panic! If you need some inspiration for programs, visit the 2017 TRW Pinterest board. There is even more information available at http://teenreadweek.ning.com/. If you haven’t downloaded the Teen Read Week Manual, it is still available.

Let everyone know what you are doing for Teen Read Week on social media by using @yalsa and #TRW17

Stay calm, and have a great 2017 Teen Read Week!

One Week, One Story @ Jaffrey Public Library

Thanks to a Teen Read Week Activity grant by YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, Jaffrey Public Library is collaborating with independent comic book store Escape Hatch to foster local teens’ writing and artistic talents for One Week, One Story as our primary Teen Read Week initiative. The purpose is to take the mystery out of the creative process and empower teens to cultivate their artistic skills with autonomy and confidence, providing the tools for them to continue to do so well beyond the end of the program. One Week, One Story involves participants attending a workshop to create their own comics for publication in a bound anthology.

The library will host graphic novelist Marek Bennett to teach a time-challenge comic workshop on October 9, which is also a school holiday. Marek has had a lot of success teaching time-challenge workshops, such as On your mark, get set, draw! during last year’s summer program, and can speak from experience about how time constraints can free artists from perfectionism. His nonfiction graphic novel The Civil War Diary of Freeman Colby is also on this year’s YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens list, so he is able to speak to the entire publication process from creation to marketing one’s work post-publication. After a 3-hour workshop (and pizza) with Marek to learn the basic process of creating a comic book, teens may opt to attend social write-ins in the evenings to polish their works and collaborate for feedback. A final reception at the end of the week gives teens the opportunity to share their work with the wider community and celebrate having completed their comics.

In preparation for the initiative, the library has purchased graphics tablets and editing software so that participants may learn to use the tools typically used by graphic novelists today. The library will also bolster its collection of graphic novels and books about creating graphic novels to provide further references for participants. Throughout Teen Read Week, participants may reserve a graphics tablet to digitize their stories. The library will host a workshop that covers the basics of how to use the hardware and software, or participants may set up a one-on-one tutorial with a librarian.

At the end of One Week, One Story, teens who choose to do so may submit their completed comics for publication. Escape Hatch recently launched an independent publishing venture and will publish the teens’ work in a bound anthology. All participants, regardless of whether they chose to submit their work, will receive a copy of the anthology. Escape Hatch will hold a book release party to launch the teens’ work and will make copies available to purchase.

By providing teens with the information and tools to create, as well putting the tangible results of their efforts in teens’ hands, we aim to strengthen literacy skills and inspire a genuine excitement in authorship. Furthermore, we hope that seeing their friends’ work published inspires teens who do not participate. We will harness the momentum generated by Teen Read Week to implement further programming and independent creative efforts using the tools and resources purchased for the program.

Julie Perrin is the director of the Jaffrey Public Library in Jaffrey, NH.  Andrea Connolly is the Youth Services Librarian.  Their library is a recipient of a Teen Read Week Activity grant from YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

Gimme a C (For Collaboration!): Coding, Collaboration & Community

Earlier this year, the Westerville Public Library was awarded a LSTA Summer Library Program Grant through the State Library of Ohio that allowed us to purchase robots (Kibo, Dash & Dot, and Sphero SPRK+) to extend our already popular in-house technology programs. But we also wanted to reach children who might never make it to the public library. During June and July of 2017, we collaborated with the Westerville City Schools Summer Intervention program to visit 3rd and 4th graders–many of whom had never been to a public library– to introduce students to basic coding with our new robot partners.

Experience

The intrinsic appeal of learning with robots instantly captured students’ attention. We met one of the main goals–increasing interest in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, & Math)–right away, as most students had no prior hands-on experiences with robotics. We emphasized basic coding concepts and the engineering design process: ask, imagine, plan, create, test and improve, then share results. We encouraged children to practice problem solving skills, discussing what worked and what didn’t, and making changes if time allowed.

We introduced the concept of coding by having students program adults to complete a familiar task: making a jelly sandwich. This classic demonstration of following step-by-step instructions was very effective, if occasionally a bit messy. The activity also reinforced the idea that the children are in control. They are the programmers; capable and smarter than the robot, which can only do what they instruct it to do — no more, no less.

Tips 

Allow time for free play. Robots are exciting! It’s natural for kids to want to play, so allow time for non-directed experimentation.

Social exchange — learning to take turns, ask questions, and try another person’s ideas —  IS learning.

Repeat sessions with the same group allows for deeper learning. We had to balance repetition with keeping classes small  to allow for hands-on experience. Repeat classes allow you to go beyond the initial playful period to more directed tasks and deeper understanding.

Expect the unexpected. Be prepared by experimenting ahead of time, but accept that children will try different things . . . and this is okay. You don’t have to know all the answers! Ask how they got to this point, and have them ask each other for ideas. It’s all part of the learning process.

End each class with a summary. Save time to gather together and share their thoughts if at all possible. Some children didn’t think they were learning because they were having fun! All were eager to demonstrate something they had programmed on the robot.

What if you don’t have robots? We began our coding instruction using the free resources on the Hour of Code website. Many “unplugged” activities can also be used to teach basic coding concepts. Our variant of Simon Says– “The Programmer Says”–was so popular it was requested by children in subsequent programs. Don’t be afraid to dive into coding!

Robin L. Gibson is a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Joint Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation and Assistant Coordinator of Youth Services at the Fairfield County District Library in Lancaster, Ohio.

Photo Credit: Robin L. Gibson

Civic Data Zine Camp

Since 2012, The Labs@CLP (Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh) has provided Pittsburgh teens a digital learning space where they can explore new technologies and hone existing skills. We were one of the fortunate programs designated as an IMLS Learning Lab grantee, and our programming continues to develop our curriculum of teen-driven connected learning. Recent additions include a process through which teens can earn badges as they practice and refine new Labs skills, a transition into some of our neighborhood locations that have not yet received weekly Labs programming and equipment, and the annual Labsy Awards, which recognize the creativity and innovation of local teens. Over the last five years, this unique initiative has evolved and extended its reach into new locations, new disciplines, and new avenues of creativity.

Each summer, we invite groups of teens into our libraries to participate in what we call The Labs Summer Skills Intensives. Partnerships with local organizations like 1Hood Media and Pittsburgh Filmmakers, along with individual artists with unique specializations, allow us to explore a specific aspect of literacy—from songwriting to street art to sound recording—in a creative way. Each teen earns $100 for attending the entire week, and bus passes are available for anyone who might need one. These week-long camps give teens a platform for intimate engagement and complete immersion, and the results are extraordinary. In our camps, teens have produced music videos, written original songs, sewn their own fashion projects, and much more.

We saw The Labs Intensive formula as a great opportunity to highlight our teens’ expertise about their communities, while also increasing the reach of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Beyond Big Data initiative. Part of this effort involves the inclusion of data literacy programming into our existing repertoire, and we soon created a curriculum that would allow us to explore open data with a brilliant group of civically-minded teens. On July 31, we grabbed our supplies and headed to CLP – Squirrel Hill for the first day of Data Zine Camp.

The goals of this Intensive were the following:

  • To identify data as it impacts our everyday lives;
  • To think critically about data;
  • To practice storytelling using data;
  • To examine a personal, civic, or national issue through the lens of data; and
  • To create a Data Zine that documents not only our findings, but our process.

We began the week by introducing our partner, PublicSource. This local journalism network is unique because of its data-driven perspective, and its ability to amplify the compelling stories within data. Throughout our camp, the data journalists at PublicSource led us in fact-finding adventures, examined biases through critical discussion, and introduced us to a variety of data visualization tools and techniques.

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Teen Read Week @ Buckfield Junior Senior High School

A recovering “core subject is best and what matters most” English Teacher, I am relatively new to the library scene.  After being chosen for this grant, I began to consider how it really is not just me or the library or even the school that received this award, but each individual student that attends this school.  I have the privilege of teaching Library Skills and Digital Citizenship to all of the 7th and 8th grade students.  Like many High School Librarians, I have no assigned teaching time with the students.  I see them when they come from Freshman English to check out outside readings for class, and sporadically from Science and History classes when students have research projects to complete.   So how was I to get information to achieve my goals and complete the programs I developed for Teen Read Week?  I would accomplish this through our school’s Advisory Program.

To prepare for Teen Read Week all students in their advisories have completed a twenty-six question Interest Inventory.  For the purposes of Teen Read Week and the programming that will occur, eight of the questions will be scrutinized and data is being gathered. 

The following is the letter I attached to the surveys:

Advisors:

 

Please have your advisees fill out the Interest Inventory that I have included here.

 

This survey is part of an effort to increase student involvement in LMC (Library Media Center) acquisitions.  As a result of this survey and related Teen Read Week library programming that will occur October 8-14, our LMC will be able to purchase books that student groups have selected in the amount of about $900.  Please let students know that their participation makes this donation of money for book purchases possible. 

 

Surveys need to be completed and returned to me by Friday, September 8, 2017.  If any students are absent please have them complete the survey on Monday, September 11, 2017.

 

Please also ask students interested in becoming part of a Teen Reader’s Advisory Group to see me for more information.

 

Thank you to all of the faculty and students.  I look forward to working with you throughout the year!

Mrs. Reinstein, Librarian

 

With special thanks to: Dollar General and YALSA

  

I was very pleased that students were excited to know that their participation in the survey meant that we could have some new books in our library and not only would there be new books, but books that were based on their interests and suggestions.

I am looking forward to aggregating the data to continue my implementation of programming and sharing how it goes. 

 

Maria Reinstein is the Library Media Specialist at Buckfield Junior Senior High School, in Buckfield, Maine. Maria has shared her love of literature, rhetoric, drama, and writing through teaching and co-curricular activities since 1995.  She began teaching as a University Faculty member at the Komi State Pedagogical Institute in Syktyvkar, Russia before returning home to Maine and before becoming a full time High School English Teacher.  She has developed two Advanced Placement English courses, is a state certified mentor for new teachers, has completed a national program in Trails to Every Classroom, and has recently finished her second master’s degree, this time in Library and Information Science.

Maria’s interests beyond the classroom include writing, playing music, gardening, cooking, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, camping, and nordic and alpine skiing. Maria lives with her husband, their three children, and their two dogs in Turner, Maine.

Teen Translator Interns @ the Sacramento Public Library

I am in charge of teen volunteers at the Arcade library and had noted that, of our approximately two dozen volunteers, many of them spoke languages other than English. At the same time, the Arcade library was seeing a large influx of new patrons who spoke said languages from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Syria; teens were also regularly asking about finding paid work in our area. I wanted to create an opportunity for the volunteers to use their linguistic skills and develop new ones related to professional working environments. It was also important to me that they be paid for their efforts.

I then came across a YALSA grant designed to monetarily support interns at one’s library and applied. I was informed that my program had been selected for one of the grants in early 2017. The amount of the grant totaled $1,000, all of which I paid directly to the interns.

The first thing I did after getting the grant was solidify the job description for the interns. I made the schedule flexible and the requirements loose – at minimum, applicants had to be at least 13 years old and be able to get to the library reliably. I highlighted the fact that teens who spoke Arabic, Persian/Dari, and/or Pashto would be given priority and that they would be paid. I also determined that, ideally, I would hire two interns – one who spoke Arabic, and one who spoke Persian/Dari, as those were the languages most often appearing in the community and that no library staff spoke. The description specified that interns were to email me with an answer to the question of why it was important for their community to have access to information.

Once this was finished, I sent the posting to teachers, administrators, and other community contacts in the Arcade area. When performing outreach, I talked about the opportunity to classes, especially those with adult ESL students, once the posting was translated into Pashto, Arabic, and Persian.

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Teen Read Week is Coming!

October is almost here and with it comes the perfect way to encourage teens to celebrate their love of reading…Teen Read Week!

There’s only two weeks before the kick-off of this year’s Teen Read Week but you don’t need to worry if you haven’t finalized your plans.  There is still plenty of time to create your own Teen Read Week celebration. 

To help you get ready for this year’s Teen Read Week (October 8-14th) YALSA has compiled many great resources to make your Teen Read Week a success.  This year’s official manual contains many ideas and resources designed to help you find ways for teens to unleash their stories.  The online forum allows you to share ideas and get feedback from librarians across the country.  There is also the official “Unleash Your Story” webpage which offers activities ideas, publicity tools and many resources that will allow anyone to create an awesome storytelling program.  Bookmarks and posters available at the ALA Store will help get your library into the Teen Read Weeks spirit.  Plus, Teen Read Week is the perfect time to encourage the teens at your library to vote for 2017 Teens’ Top Teen.  Voting is open on the official Teens’ Top Teen website.  Now, go forth and “Unleash Your Story”.   

Unleash Your Story Workshops with Dover Public Library

Every Tuesday, the Dover Public Library hosts a fun and engaging program just for Teens. From cooking competitions to art studios to spa days, our Teen Tuesdays strive to provide something for everyone. We’re very excited to continue this tradition with the Unleash Your Story series.

Whether we tell a true story or something from our imagination, the stories we tell are powerful. They represent important parts of our cultures, interests, and lives. There are many different ways to tell a story. Some tell stories through art, some through writing, some through video… The possibilities are endless.

This fall, supported by the 2017 YALSA/Dollar General Teen Read Week™ Program Grant, the Dover Public Library is exploring ways teens can share their own stories with a series of workshops based on the Teen Read Week™ theme: Unleash Your Story. We’re starting with an Art Studio where teen participants will get to use drawings, paintings, and comics to tell their stories.  Next in our series is a Creative Writing event which will allow participants to practice writing with prompts and games, connect with other writers, and leave with resources that will help them continue to practice and share their work. The third workshop will focus on video creation. Teens will work on a storyboard, shoot video, and edit their videos in the library’s Technology Room. Our final workshop is a Stop Motion Animation Studio. Using new software, special camera equipment, and various art supplies, teens will learn how to make their own animated videos.

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Banned Books Week Approaches

Recently I spoke on a panel discussing graphic novels and their representation of sex education and self-acceptance from an LGBT perspective. The conference, called Flame Con, has taken place for the last three years in Brooklyn, NY and focuses on pop culture with an LGBT lens. As part of the panel we discussed what exists on this topic for all ages including children and teens. In our conversation, we touched on why these titles are important and whether they live on the shelves of libraries. They mostly do, but in my preparation, I found myself on ALA’s Banned Books Week page and saw that many of the books that I know and love for their inclusivity were among the most challenged for 2016. In fact, the top five of the ten were challenged due to their inclusion of LGBT characters. Other reasons these books were challenged focused on sexual content, lewd language, and violence. To see the top ten list of 2016, which includes picture books, graphic novels, YA titles and more, click here.

According to ALA’s Banned Books Week page, “Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers — in shared support of the freedom to seek and express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.” This year Banned Books Week is taking place from September 24th – 30th toting the hashtag #wordshavepower. Let’s show our unity as we fight for our teen’s right to read what they need.

This week allows us as librarians and advocates to shine a spotlight on those books that others want to put in the dark. Censorship of these titles silences the voices of the authors and puts blinders on our readers. It effects our First Amendment rights as readers. As we all know, representation in young adult literature is paramount to the teens that we serve. Whether those books are windows or mirrors for the readers we must make sure our patrons can either see themselves in a book or learn about the lives of others through what they read. If we do not fight against these challenges our teen patrons will continue to find the books they need censored.

So how can ALA and YALSA help you? Take a look at our resource pages on Banned Books Week and the Office for Intellectual Freedom. There are tools located there that can help you report challenged titles, get support for these challenges, and build a rock-solid collection development policy. So you know what you may be facing here are definitions from ALA’s Challenge Support site:

  • A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.
  • Censorship is a change in the access status of material, based on the content of the work and made by a governing authority or its representatives. Such changes include exclusion, restriction, removal, or age/grade level changes.
  • Intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored.

The Challenge Support site also goes on to explain you can contact the Office for Intellectual Freedom whenever you hear even the slightest rumbling around a book at your library. They even give you the contact information right on the page! We’ll share it here for even easier access: For assistance with challenges to library materials, services, or programs, please contact Kristin Pekoll at the Office for Intellectual Freedom, 800-545-2433, ext. 4221, or via email: kpekoll@ala.org. Granted it can be scary when something is challenged in your collection, but remember we are all in this together (that may or may not be a High School Musical reference – don’t censor me!).

In the meantime, when you are not dealing with a live challenge, celebrate those books that have been banned in the past. Make a display of the books or put a list of the books on a bulletin board. Ask your teens or colleagues what their favorite Banned Books are and show them off. We can be advocates for our teens and their literature in whatever way we choose – whenever we choose. As YALSA members and/or teen librarians we sometimes house the most controversial books in our collections so be brave, report challenges, and advocate for Banned Books.

For everyday Advocacy information, be sure to check out YALSA’s Advocacy Page and Toolkit!

Derek Ivie is the Youth Services Coordinator at the Suffolk Cooperative Library System in Bellport, NY. He has served on many booklist and award committees, and is currently serving as a Board Member at Large for the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).