Check it out: Teen Literacies Toolkit

Back in February 2017, I wrote about my experience creating a toolkit in one day at Midwinter. It was a great experience and our group got a lot done in one day. We submitted our first draft to YALSA and waited to see what would happen next. Like any good piece of writing, our first draft wasn’t our best draft. So back to the drawing board we went. After several revisions, multiple Zoom conversations, and dozens of Google Doc comments back and forth, we are very proud to report that our Teen Literacies Toolkit has been published!

In this toolkit, we use the lens of fake news to examine literacy skills and programs you can do to help your teens. We propose this lens helps us understand the digital environment many of our teens live in and how we can help them better understand that world. What I think is great about the toolkit is the various ways you can use it. For example, you can:

  • Read the whole thing, cover to cover. Reading the whole toolkit allows you to dive into a little literacy theory, along with pushing you to reflect on the things you currently do with your teens and how you can create impactful programming based on their needs (check out page 10, the section on Embedding Multiple Literacies into Programming and Instruction).
  • Jump into the toolkit and go straight for the potential programs. We spent a lot of time coming up with various “ready-to-go” programs for those who just want those meaty resources. For example, starting on page 4 there’s a list for 15 ways to create a literacy-rich environment, or go to page 14 for Activity Ideas (and see the Appendix for some worksheets).
  • Because we are using fake news as our lens to explore multiple literacies, we have a nice section on how teens search for information and their media environment. Starting on page 6, we explore that environment, while providing some activities to help your teens be a bit more critical with what they are looking at online.
  • We also created a hearty section of “Recommended Resources,” many with short annotations on why we selected those sources. They start on page 15 and include current articles, published research, videos to watch with your teens, activity plans, and more.
  • Our toolkit ends with an Appendix with additional resources. For those in a strategic planning position, you might be interested in our Literacies Program Planning Template. This template takes you through the steps of creating programs that combine multiple literacies as well as being intentional with outcomes and assessment measures. This template compliments our “Embedding Multiple Literacies into Programming and Instruction” section, which begins on page 10.

It feels great to have this toolkit published and we want to hear from you! Let us know your thoughts on the toolkit. What did you like about it? Did any sections resonate with you (and why)? Have you tried any of the things mentioned in the toolkit at your own library? Did the toolkit inspire any other thoughts that you want others to know while checking out the toolkit? 

Big shout out to the rest of the group (Kristin, Jennifer, Trent, Renee, Allison, and Julie) who helped write this toolkit and thanks to YALSA for turning our Google Doc into this beautiful toolkit.

  

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.

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 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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Building a Better Library for and with Teens: Dollar General Teen Summer Intern Grant

The Teen Summer Intern Program funded through the generosity of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and YALSA provides libraries with a unique opportunity to implement the practice of building programs and services around the concept of for and with teens. Hedberg Public Library’s teen volunteer program and Teen Advisory Board (TAB) have given teens the opportunity to offer ideas, creativity and service to the library and its customers for many years. The Dollar General Teen Summer Internship Grant awarded to our library has magnified and expanded the many positives of the teen volunteer and TAB programs and has more fully demonstrated the value of providing rewarding experiences and support for teens in useful leadership roles with the goal of increasing teen engagement. Teens have reached further by mentoring their peers and by planning and carrying out activities in their own space at our library for the first time.

To get started, intern position descriptions were posted on the library’s teen web and Facebook pages and were announced during TAB meetings and Teen Volunteer Training sessions. Posters were positioned in the teen area at the library and were distributed to high school librarians. Our main local radio station broadcast an interview with library staff promoting the positions and the opportunity for teens to gain paid work experience. Applications were posted and in-person interviews were held with the Young Adult Librarian and Head of Youth Services. TAB participation or library volunteer experience was preferred for the positions but was not required. Two teens were hired to work an average of four hours per week during the summer learning program. Payments were made through two stipends paid over the summer.

Teens gained important career and workforce development skills through the application, interview and training process. Interns took part in the summer learning and summer lunch program intern/volunteer training sessions conducted by librarians and library workers. Additional training for interns covered basic library policies and procedures, safety and emergency guidelines, a full tour of the library and detailed instructions for the teen summer learning program. Following training, interns assisted teens as they registered and completed check in for the teen summer learning program at iPad kiosks in our teen area using an online tracking system. They also distributed prizes and mentored peer volunteers working with the baby/toddler and school-age programs in the children’s area.

Teen interns held a Kahoot! practice session for a middle school team preparing for our library system’s Battle of the Books competition. They guided participants as they chose a team name and team captain and helped facilitate the design of Sharpie Tie-Dye T-shirts. Senior Moments Tech Day brought teens, seniors and families together to showcase some of the cool gadgets used by teens like robots, 3D printer and more.

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Teen Summer Learning Intern or Old Bridge Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

The Old Bridge Public Library’s usage increases exponentially during the summer months while our staffing stays the same.  This makes it difficult to offer the summer learning programs that would benefit our community, but thanks to the YALSA Dollar General Grant, we were able to acquire a teen volunteer to host a myriad of STEM classes centered on the “Build a Better World” theme. 

We have a thriving year round teen volunteer program with over 100 active teens and during the summer months this number increases.  So when we advertised for our summer learning intern position, we knew we would get a huge number of applicants.  Close to a hundred teens applied for the intern position.  We knew more than half of them had the tech skills and open schedule that we needed, but would they have the social skills to make this program successful?  In order to find that out, we held interviews to see if they would be able to interact with all ages, including leading a group of their own peers.

We chose Ariana, or “A” as our summer learning intern for many reasons.  Since A was a teen volunteer for 4 years working in all aspects of the library, and went to a technology high school, she already had the necessary library and technology skill set that we were looking for.  There was no need to train her on those sections.   The Teen Librarian and I gave her a brief talk on the ages that she would be serving and explained their developmental stages.  Because of this, depending on the people attending the program, she was able to alter her robotics programs to ensure that everyone was getting a valuable experience out her STEM classes.    

LED circuit droid

Our summer intern was an essential part in our summer learning programs.  Since we believe in empowering teens, A’s role was not only to act as support in librarian run programs, but to also create her own. One of the first agenda items that we went over with A was to make a list of goals and program ideas to give her some guidance on how the summer would run.

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Teen Summer Interns @ Benzie Shores Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

We’ve had a children’s librarian vacancy for almost 2 years now and I’ve been filling in as our youth services coordinator. Finding skilled help in a rural area has proven difficult, but that’s a blog post for another time. With the vacancy, I’ve been extremely grateful for the interns we’ve had this summer, made possible from a grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

The best part of having interns was the fluidity they brought to our programs. Having extra hands around to keep energetic and mobile toddlers from running amok at programs was certainly helpful. During busy times, we were able to set up a separate Summer Reading Program registration table that was manned by the interns. The first day of summer reading is usually a chaotic nightmare (in a good way…) and this year we managed the crowds with no problems, even with the record number of children and teens signing up.

At one point during the summer, I told the interns “your task today is to play Lego with a group of 1st and 2nd graders. Are you ok with that?” It was a joy watching the interns interact with our younger patrons.

Last summer, I spent countless hours maintaining our summer reading program registration spreadsheet. Our interns were able to complete this task with hardly any training. I was amazed at the little amount of oversight they required.

We had a few challenges, but all were to be expected. Teens are busy people and their schedules can change at short notice. They also have family obligations that they don’t always have control over. We had 3 interns and tried to schedule them so that we always had 2 on the schedule in case one of them couldn’t make it. Our interns were bookworms, so at times it was like monitoring kids in a candy store. Overall, they were respectful of their “library” time and stayed on task.

The intern program was so successful that I cannot imagine going through a summer without them.

 

Stacy Pasche has an MLS from Indiana University at Indianapolis and has been fortunate enough to work for the Allen County Public Library (Indiana) and the Pewaukee Public Library (Wisconsin). She is currently the Assistant Director of the Benzie Shores District Library, a small library in beautiful Frankfort, MI. As a small and rural public librarian she works with all ages and all aspects of public library services, from Teen services to cleaning the occasional bathroom. Her heart belongs to her beloved Chiweenie- and her family.

Teen Summer Intern @ Rebecca M. Arthurs Memorial Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

The internship at our library was the first job I have ever applied for, because it was really the only job that would help with my future job, which I hope to be either working with elementary, high school, or college level students teaching History. I definitely learned how to interact with children much better than I knew how to before, and I know how to help them with things they needed, like help reading directions on the projects we would have them doing. I also got to meet quite a few unforgettable children, and I have pictures they have drawn for me to thank me for little things, which was really sweet. I watched nearly all of these children open up and their personalities really came through so much more than they had at the start. Things like these around the community are wonderful for young children, I think, and it shows them how to be compassionate, helpful adults later in their lives. I also learned a lot from this internship too, not just with the children. I learn important time management skills, faster organization skills, and it’s a bit easier for me to plan out things, like to help with setting up what we did with the classes, which a few we had to do last minute because of changed plans, but everything worked out wonderfully, and most times we even had fun with it as well.

I also had a wonderful opportunity to meet a teen author through this, which was really interesting for me because it’s always been a slight dream of mine to write my own books some day. I bought two of his books, and also won the competition that he had to win an advanced copy of his third book. I also learned basic skills around the library, like shelving, checking in, library card applications, and I brushed up on the Dewey Decimal system too. I also met a really cool girl my age, who I believe will be a friend of mine even after the internship is over. We hit it off right away and we related on quite a few interests too, and when we got to work together it was nonstop laughing and joking while we did what was needed. I was really happy to hear that it was someone I didn’t know, because I love meeting new people.

Amanda, who led the sessions with the children, was also nice and wonderful, and her children were there all day with us, which was awesome, as they were some of the sweetest and coolest children I’ve met. They’ve drawn me bunches of pictures and they seemed to really like me, which helped me interact with them a little easier. Amanda was super nice and caring, which helped any nervousness I had about the internship previously go right out the door, she was super friendly and really easy to get along with, and it was comfortable interactions too, we got quite a few laughs in while we worked on everything. Overall, I’m very glad I applied and I was really thankful for everything I got out of this job, as well.

My name is Hannah Stephens, I am from Brookville Pennsylvania, and I will be 17 in December! The library job was my first ever job, and I applied would be able to get to know how kids behave better than I understood them before, and to save money for a trip to Germany next summer, which will help with the World History teaching career I’d like to pursue. A few interesting fact about me would be I have a three year old shih tzu named Paisley, I collect and play the ukulele, and I currently have four of them! 

Teen Summer Interns @ Addison Public Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

When our library first began hiring teen summer interns, it was our goal to provide a first job experience and job skills training to at-risk and low-income young adults. We knew we would have to teach our kids the basics: filling out an application, showing up on time, and communicating with coworkers. We wanted them to go through the same orientation process as any other new staff member, including all the paperwork.  It was through this process that we uncovered barriers and knowledge gaps among our kids that we had not prepared for.

Many librarians are already familiar with the concept of “Summer Melt.” Up to 40 percent of low-income and first generation students that are accepted to college do not show up for their first day of class. Sometimes they face an unexpected crisis at home. For many others, though, the barrier is something relatively small. They haven’t filled out paperwork correctly. They aren’t sure how to pay for books. They forgot to turn something in on time. These are problems that could be solved, but students don’t know always where to get help.

By taking our interns through the standard orientation, we uncovered many of the same roadblocks. Of the thirteen interns we have hired in the last three years, five could not produce two forms of ID. Only two knew their social security number. At least four experienced a period of housing insecurity. One intern did not know what to do with a check. Our kids needed much more than just job training.

We also saw an opportunity to talk about topics that are usually too dull or distant to interest teens. Interns asked what we meant by “benefits.” They wanted to understand retirement savings. They had questions about paying taxes. Although many libraries have found success with programs on “life hacks” or “adulting,” it remains extremely rare to engage young adults in these more difficult subjects.

Any library considering a teen internship program should prepare to provide this kind of support. You need to know how to apply for a copy of a birth certificate in your county. You need to have a good contact at your local social services agency. Those of us that work in low-income communities consider ourselves well-versed in these services, but even we can be caught off-guard. Teens don’t always recognize that they are missing important documents and their brains aren’t wired to think about retirement, so these issues rarely come up.

The internship program creates a unique space where teens are motivated to tackle difficult, “real world” problems, but it reaches a very small percentage of our community. Our experience opened our eyes to an important role we can play in the lives of young adults, whether they are college-bound or not. The challenge for us now is to find a way to bring these services to more teens in our community.

What is your library doing to get kids ready for adulthood? What partnerships have you built in the community to reach these teens?

Elizabeth Lynch is the Teen Services Coordinator at Addison Public Library in Addison, IL.

Teen Summer Interns @ Charles Ralph Holland Memorial Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

As a part of the Summer Reading Program at the Charles Ralph Holland Memorial Library, five local teenagers were chosen as interns for the purpose of assisting the staff of the library in an effort to make this year’s Summer Reading Programming bigger and better than ever.   Our summer interns worked hard assisting staff members every Thursday during the Summer Reading Program doing things such as preparing the craft and helping children with their crafts, setting up games outside the library, being present as chaperones to the children as they played with Legos and Minecraft in different areas of the library, and assisting in handing out meals provided by the ETHRA Summer Food Program.  Once the program had concluded for the day, the teen interns would assist staff around the library with things such as breaking down sets, cleaning up, assisting patrons, and shelving library books.  Two of the interns worked outdoors on helping plant the library’s community garden and paint the ‘Patron Pantry’ that holds donated canned foods, school supplies, and hygienic items.  Another two teen interns updated our social media sites and tweeted out all of our events.  You can catch these pictures and hash tags on Twitter and Facebook.  The last intern resurfaced all of the library’s damaged DVDs and helped staff organize teen event supplies. 

Some of the teen interns had volunteered at the library before, but most were unaware of all the work that goes into running children’s programming and maintaining a library. Our interns gained skills in customer service by working daily with both adults and children.  Each teen intern got to actively participate in engaging young people while being pulled in multiple directions by energetic children.  The interns helped kids build Legos, play games, and read children’s stories aloud. They even helped record the events by taking turns as event photographer. Without them I feel many of the precious moments during the summer would have been lost. A few of the interns expressed interest in pursuing a career in working with children and found helpful that the internship provided hands on experience in dealing with children. I feel the internship presented the teens with the opportunity to learn whether a public service job interested them and educated them on the role of the library in a community.

On the last day of the summer intern program, the five teenagers were asked to take part in an interview that allowed them to answer questions about their time at the library.  One of the questions that asked was, “What was your favorite experience during the summer?”  Every teen responded with “being with the kids” as one of their favorite.  They loved crafting and reading to our summer readers and we know everyone enjoyed their company.  Teens handed in evaluations to help the library better cater future programming. The teen summer interns were provided with a stipend for all their services during the summer.  Funding from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and the Young Adult Library Services Association made the Teen Summer Intern Program possible. The hard work and determinations of teens selected for awards made the 2017 Charles Ralph Holland Memorial Library Summer Reading Program a huge success by breaking all previous records recorded by library staff in programming and attendance.

Hello, my Name is Kathrine Chalman, and I’ve served as director of the Charles Ralph Holland Memorial Library since July 2015. Having earned a Masters of Information Science Degree from the University of Tennessee, and started a number of library programs for teens, children, and adults this year, including a Story Time for Kids, Teen Board Game Night, Coffee and Coloring, and Young Adult Book Club. I recently taught a basic coding course at the local high school and am eager to share ideas and learn new programming methods.  With the completion of the library’s 2017 Summer Reading Program, I plan to start additional teen programming, including art and more coding courses. The Charles Ralph Holland Memorial Library 2017 Summer Reading Program set record breaking numbers in both attendance, community partnerships, and programming outreach.