2019 Teen Summer Intern Program: Teens engaging children through inquiry-based play

In my rural community, opportunities for teen employment are limited mostly to food service, yard work, and babysitting. When I applied for the YALSA/Dollar General Teen Summer Intern Grant, my goal was to offer meaningful employment that would allow teens to share their skills and passions with younger children. By employing interns in this way I could have helping hands during summer activities and provide a deeper learning experience for school-age participants.

I advertised the position through the guidance office of our local high school, who kindly emailed the details to all students. We also posted the opportunity on our library website, bulletin boards, and social media. With my program goals in mind, I needed candidates who genuinely enjoyed spending time with younger children. I also hoped for applicants who had experience with hands-on STEAM activities and who could take a leadership role during activities. Several applicants had leadership experience through Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, which has sparked my interest in reaching out and partnering with these community groups. Most of my interns had experience with the Technology Student Association at the high school, which might be another source of future collaboration.

The primary duty of our interns was to staff our Summer STEAM Lab for ages 6 to 11, held on Tuesday mornings during the ten weeks of summer programs. Interns set up the room, prepared materials, and interacted with the children by asking questions and offering encouragement as needed. I planned flexible topics for these weekly sessions in order to leave room for ideas and suggestions from our interns. For example, one week we had a sink or float activity where we made and tested boats with aluminum foil. One of my interns had previously led this activity for a group of Girl Scouts, and he had excellent ideas for how to structure the activity and questions to ask participants to further their investigations.

A teen works with two younger children over some building toys.

Interns listened to children’s stories and modeled inquiry processes.

Teens work with younger children as they practice STEM experiments.

Interns helped children test their creations and make changes as needed.

A teen intern observes the play station they built with old tech parts.

During training, interns built an imaginative play station with old tech parts.

Most weeks I had two interns scheduled to work together, with the intention of providing opportunities to develop teamwork and related workplace skills. The teens could problem solve collaboratively and take turns with the less interesting tasks (such as vacuuming after the program). Based on observation, I would say the interns learned from each other as well, since they each modeled different strengths. For example, one teen was more confident with asking questions, and another was more ease with demonstrating an activity to the children. One of the teens learned she prefers working with just one or two children (like a babysitting job).

For me, the intern program was a success because I could offer workplace experience to teens. I saw children working joyfully with the feedback and attention of three caring people, rather than the presence of myself alone. The teen interns modeled hard work and passion for the children who participated in Lab, and I hope that will inspire a return to the library.

 

Lisa Rand is the youth services coordinator at Boyertown Community Library in southeastern Pennsylvania. She serves on the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the Pennsylvania Library Association and writes for the Intellectual Freedom blog of the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association.

 

2019 Teen Summer Intern Program: Reaching Underserved Youth through Teen Internship at Indian Prairie

As a district library, the Indian Prairie Public Library serves parts Darien, Burr Ridge, and Willowbrook, IL. One of the underserved areas in our district is known as Willowbrook Corner. In the summer, staff from the Kids & Teens department visit the Willowbrook Corner Summer Camp at Anne M. Jeans Elementary each week. We present activities to four different groups—approximately 72 kids, in grades K-5.

Our Teen Summer Intern, Carson Wagner, planned and presented the activities for the kids and led various staff members who took turns accompanying him on the visits. With Carson, the kids were able to plant seeds and learn about gardening, create Makey Makey banana pianos, play with a variety of musical instruments that the library circulates, make catapults, complete various art projects, and more. He taught them several cooperative group games, like Frogger, which he incorporated into his visits. On the last day, Carson delivered prize books. Each of the children received a new book to keep.
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Apply now for YALSA’s 2019 Diversity Program Stipend

YALSA invites diverse individuals to apply by August 1 for a chance to present a literacies focused program at its 2019 YA Services Symposium in Memphis, TN. The program will take place on Sunday, November 3rd of the symposium.

If selected, the recipient must become a YALSA/ALA member and will be provided $1,500 to offset that cost, as well as registration, travel, lodging, and meal expenses at the symposium. Funds for the stipend are generously provided by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

With this opportunity, YALSA hopes to create a more just and equitable symposium by providing more professional opportunities for diverse individuals from underrepresented populations, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, language, culture, national origin, age, disability status, ideology, religion, power differentiated groups and professional skills.

Only one session proposal per person will be accepted. Literacies, as defined by YALSA, extends beyond traditional literacy and includes, but is not limited to visual, digital, textual and technology literacy or serving underserved teens. Before accepting the award, the recipient must become a member of YALSA/ALA. Learn more and apply by August 1.

YALSA’s 2019 YA Services Symposium will take place Nov. 1-3 with the theme: Show Up and Advocate: Supporting Teens in the Face of Adversity. Now through early bird registration (September 15), those who join YALSA and register for the symposium will be automatically entered for a chance to win free registration for the 2020 YALSA symposium, which will take place in Reno, NV. More information about the symposium can be found at www.ala.org/yalsa/yasymposium.

Ask Your Senators to #FundLibraries by April 5!

The White House budget proposal for FY2020 has, for a third time, proposed elimination of federal funding for libraries. This year’s “Dear Appropriator” letters have finished in the House. We are now urging Senators to preserve more than $210 million in federal library funding.

One letter asks members of the Senate Appropriations Committee to fully fund the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and the other asks the Committee to fully fund the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) program. The more signatures we have, the better the chance that the appropriators will protect funding for LSTA and IAL programs.

Senators Jack Reed (RI) and Susan Collins (ME) are leading this year’s LSTA and IAL letters and the deadline is April 5. Want to see if your representative has signed already? Check our appropriations letter tracker.  Email your Senators now!

Your Help Needed: Support the #FundLibraries Campaign

As you may have heard, the White House has released its federal budget proposal for FY2020 and once again, they have proposed to eliminate the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Libraries need your support now more than ever. ALA is calling on library advocates in every congressional district to contact their representative and ask them to support federal funding for libraries by cosigning “Dear Appropriator” letters to fund the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) program. The more signatures ALA gets on these letters, the more likely it is that funding for LSTA and IAL will be restored. The deadline for signatures is March 28.

Learn more about ALA’s FY2020 #FundLibraries Campaign here. Also, be sure to visit ALA’s action center to contact your member of Congress and sign up to receive action alerts at strategic times as the campaign progresses.

Libraries Welcome All Families: Community Partnerships to Fund Collection Development for English Learners in Urban Connecticut

One of the most difficult moments of the month was observing my English Learners come to check out books with their classes and not be able to find anything they could read at the high school level. It broke my heart to see dejection on their faces. It did not matter that I myself could not understand the words they were saying; I could just see it. Students perform better academically in literature courses when they see themselves in the materials and simply enjoy independent reading more. While I had some titles of interest for my Latinx students topically, all of them were in English. I set out to add books to my school library collection to assist my Spanish-speaking students. To purchase fiction in Spanish, I first posted a request on Donors Choose (www.donorschoose.org) for just ten novels. When the project was funded and the books arrived, I labeled each with a green S and shelved them above our fiction cases to aid new students trying to find them. After that success, I added another Donors Choose project to bring ten Spanish memoirs to West Haven High School, as all of our seniors must read a memoir.     

This project garnered the attention of the Greater Bridgeport Latino Network (GBLN), a local organization working to feature Latinx success stories, encourage political activism, and support community endeavors. GBLN showcased the story on their website, and it was subsequently picked up by a local newspaper, the New Haven Register. It was my desire to inform the audience it was not just me, my school, or my district needing these materials and support from the Latinx community:

“Literacy is necessary for being a productive member of society. Volunteering time such as reading at a toddler story hour, helping at a resume writing class, or speaking on a vocation or cause are all ways to support local libraries, especially those serving predominantly Latino communities. Woychowski welcomes the donation of new or gently used books to her own library, but she also encourages readers to donate both books and time to their own local school or public libraries.” (http://gbln.net/books-in-spanish-needed-for-high-school-library/)

Sharing this story via social media has been a blessing in terms of the varied audience reached. Links to the story appeared on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and were shared numerous times by personal friends and professional connections. Books began appearing on my home front porch and in my school mailbox from all corners of the community, from a prominent defense attorney to a small Catholic Church to a representative of the Hispanic Nurses Association of a large local hospital. Our community’s support of literacy is invaluable, and as school librarians, we must be willing to advocate for it on behalf of our students.

Jillian Woychowski is a School Library Media Specialist at West Haven High School and is a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.

Why Makerspaces Are So Important in Public Libraries

From large urban libraries to small rural ones, makerspaces are happening. Spaces like these are important because they give people of all ages the opportunity to gain knowledge on their own through hands-on exploration. The possibilities are endless and can range from being tech-based, such as 3D printing and multi-media, to art carts and building stations.

Libraries are Always Ahead of the Game:

In 2015, The Teen Tech Week theme Libraries are for Making highlighted the fact that indeed libraries have always been “centers for “making” and “creation” for as long as we have been having crafts, programs, and classes! Everyone seems to think that a makerspace needs to be high-tech and technology driven, but all it really needs to be is a program or space that enables and encourages teens to explore, create, and share.,” says Christie Gibrich, Senior Librarian at Grand Prairie Library System. (Young Adult Library Services, Volume 13, Number 2)

Our Art Cart

I work at the Reading Public Library, District Center in Reading, PA located in Berks County. We are fortunate to have a space dedicated to teens called the Teen Loft. In that space, teens have simple makerspace areas that I have created based on the interest of the teens and the resources many lack at home. One of those spaces is our Art Cart. We take for granted having access to simple things such as crayons, markers, paper, scissors, and glue. Our building makerspace consists of K’Nex, Legos, Moon Sand, and more. We also have a monthly themed makerspace challenge to keep things interesting such as our Granny Square project and decorating bookends that we featured for Teen Read Week this year. In many circumstances, these are luxuries for our patrons because their parents and guardians cannot afford them. They look to us for a space to relax and socialize with their peers. Programs are great and fortunately, we can provide them daily, but there is something about being able to have the time to explore on your own terms. Makerspaces provide that opportunity and support resources in our collection.

How Do I Start a Makerspace?

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Teen Read Week: It’s Written in the Stars at Liberty Middle School

I am one of the lucky 2018 Teen Read Week grantees, and I need to give a huge THANK YOU shout out to YALSA and Dollar General for providing funds to help me make this an astronomically successful week (see what I did there?).

I work in a middle school in central Virginia. We have about 1100 students and each year we struggle to meet the needs of both our high achieving students while balancing it with the more urgent need of reading scores on state tests. I think I helped with both this year! Students did not have school on the Monday of Teen Read Week due to a holiday. However, we began advertising our events with daily announcements, posters, and of course an eye-catching display as soon as you entered the library.

We needed daily announcements so that students could sign up for the programs I offered. It may seem as if we have a captive audience, but many teachers are reluctant to allow students to leave their class for a library program due to the almighty state test preparation. Once a student signs up, I have to create passes to leave class, forward names to teachers who have them in class, get teacher permission and get approval from administration. For every program event. Fortunately, I can attest to the fact that the students LOVE to come to library programs and are willing to miss even their “fun” classes or lunch to attend.

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Teen Read Week: Community Involvement at Meadowcreek High School

IMG_9908_polarrThis year for Teen Read Week we celebrated and awarded students for “Reading Woke.”  The Read Woke Challenge is a incentive based reading program that rewards students for reading books that:

• Challenge a social norm

• Give voice to the voiceless

• Provide information about a group that has been disenfranchised

• Seek to challenge the status quo

• Have a protagonist from an underrepresented or oppressed group

I started the challenge last year but this year I was able to really expand the program thanks to the Teen Read Week grant sponsored by Dollar General and YALSA.  Last year, many students were not able to receive the prizes they earned but this year I made sure all students who completed the challenge received their prizes.  This year’s program was different because I had more community involvement.  In past years, I have worked alone and not really involved others.  When I opened the doors up to the community, it made my program even better.  I have established relationships and connections that have helped me to make a bigger impact.  Because of the Teen Read Grant, I reached out to the manager of Dollar General.  He was very supportive of the program and he was excited to be a part of our event.

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Teen Read Week at Montville Township Public Library

We at Montville Township Public Library were very grateful to be awarded the Teen Read Week Grant this year and used it to do a four program series relating to Constructed Languages in Science Fiction and Fantasy. First, a book discussion related to this concept, choosing books in which a constructed language is major part of the story, in our case, the invented languages of Christopher Paolini’s Alagaësia, Newspeak from the novel 1984, and the future English of Riddley Walker. Then, virtual guest lectures by Christopher Paolini, the author of Eragon, and David J. Peterson, the linguist for HBO’s Games of Thrones. Finally, we ended with a Conlanging Workshop devoted to creating new languages, using the rules of David J. Peterson’s The Art of Language Invention. Throughout, we touched on the theory of linguistic relativity, the idea that the structure of a language actually affects how each speaker thinks and views the world. Further, as attendees were introduced to the workings of myriad languages, they saw that things that seem obvious to English speakers are not necessarily the case.

Over the four programs, attendees learned language and culture are intrinsically tied together, and were able to see its impact on a variety of different worldviews. The possibilities of language are vast, there is no set way to do things. For example, the attendees learned that English uses dummy pronouns, the ‘it’ in “It’s raining,” yet most languages do not work this way, simply opting for their word for ‘raining’ (Afterall, what is the ‘it’ referring to?). Similarly, I showed them an example of a constructed language that didn’t even use verbs. They learned that the word ‘butterfly’ used to be ‘flutterby’ and someone made a mistake hundreds of years ago that stuck. Not only is that an amazing fact, but the realization that most words have stories behind their formation was of great interest to them as well. Lastly, learning all the ways that one’s language affects their worldview and behavior, from speakers of tenseless language being healthier and more financially stable, to speakers of languages that used cardinal directions instead of left and right being able to navigate better, was especially interesting to them.

Personally, I find language fascinating, and I knew many of our teenage patrons thought the same. But what I found in doing these programs is the widespread appeal of the topic of language. People I would’ve never guessed attended some of the programs. Some patrons, for example, who had only ever attended our Super Smash Bros. Tournaments, eagerly attended the Conlanging Workshop. People who had no real interest wound up attending out of curiosity or to accompany a friend, and left amazed and intrigued. To see them speechless as they learned each mind blowing linguistic fact was wonderful.

Language is something so natural to us, so ubiquitous, that we often pay it no mind. But to see behind the curtains, to see the impact it has on us and we on it, is where I think the appeal lies. The newfound interest could lead to them investigating further, to possibly delving into related topics of psychology, philosophy, education, language teaching, sociology, anthropology, computer science, and even artificial intelligence. If a library is looking for an educational opportunity for its teenage patrons, language is an excellent starting point.

Jeff Cupo is the Young Adult/Community Services Librarian at Montville Township Public Library.