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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Content Needed! Collection Development in Light of #MeToo

In October of 2017, the hashtag #MeToo started trending on Twitter as a result of women and some men speaking out against abusers and harassers from all areas of public and private life. Then, in a January 2018 School Library Journal (SLJ) article, “Children’s Publishing Reckons with Sexual Harassment in its Ranks,” (an article that is no longer available on SLJ’s website) #MeToo came to young adult publishing when hundreds of comments were left on the online article identifying authors and publishers in the YA community as harassers and abusers. As a result of this, concern and hesitation was expressed from YALSA’s committee members in regards to evaluating works from authors who have reportedly been accused of harassment.

We all know how important library staff can be to the teens who frequent our buildings, utilize our collections, and see their library as a safe space.  Often, these teens have few supportive adults in their lives who can take the time to talk through difficult and nuanced topics that our teens are seeing discussed on social media, in magazines, on television and through conversations with friends.  They are experiencing firsthand the impact of the #MeToo movement as it relates to their favorite artists, authors, actors, and celebrities, and since libraries are often repositories of the physical and digital forms of all of this media, those who work directly with teens will often be the ones that will be having these discussions, be it on a reference desk, in programming, during book groups or just when we’re chatting with our teens after school.  We see the teens in our lives and our libraries take in all this change that is happening in real time, but how can we be supportive advocates for our teens when this topic is relatively new and unchartered territory?

In response to this need for support, YALSA has put together a Collection Development in Light of #MeToo Workgroup who has been tasked to collect, organize, and provide access to information that will help staff balance important intellectual freedom principals with the need to consider the impact of the #Metoo movement on teens, and the materials they are encountering at their libraries.

How can you help? Please submit articles, blog posts, research, reports, continuing education materials, and sample library policies for possible inclusion on the soon to come wiki page. This content will be reviewed, organized and made available for library staff to utilize in their daily interactions with teens, as well as serve as supplemental material to help with collection development and intellectual freedom principles. After the page is crowdsourced, the group will evaluate the content on the wiki page and make recommendations for the development of any resources that are missing but would be helpful to library staff who serve teens. We are really trying to find out what’s already available that can help staff, and what will need to be created.

The gathering and creation of this material will hopefully help library staff in a variety of ways including best practices around how to talk to our teens and library patrons about the materials that we choose to carry in our libraries.  There might be books on library shelves that make us or our teens uncomfortable. Does having a book by an accused or proven harasser or abuser indicate endorsement? How can we talk to our teens about the importance of intellectual freedom in a way that supports and validates the very important #MeToo movement?  These are all questions and thoughts that we hope to address with the curation and development of specific materials to help library staff.

Please send any information or content you think would be informative or helpful to have to emily.m.townsend@gmail.com by December 1.

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.

Killin’ It: Murder Mystery at the Library

One of the many things I love about being a librarian is programming! The challenge of creating programs that my teens would love while also engaging them in my library program was a passion. As a Library Media Specialist at a public high school and a Teen Librarian Consultant at a public library, I had to constantly reinvent my library programs so they could stay new and relevant (see program ideas here).  One of my favorite programs was throwing a murder mystery party! After implementing the first one, I learned very quickly that tweens, teens, and adults alike all love a good mystery, and when you throw fun, safety, and food into the mix, they all wanted to be involved.

It Takes Two

At both libraries, the murder mystery turned into two separate programs. Since the theme was Mardi Gras Masquerade, I held a program that allowed students to make masks as well as attend the murder mystery itself. However, they did not have to attend the murder mystery to come make a mask. The mask making program was suggested by the patrons/students and I loved the idea because it gave the attendees who may not have the means to buy a mask or dress up still feel in costume at the murder mystery (dressing up was encouraged, but in no way mandatory). So the mask making program served many purposes: advertisement for the upcoming murder mystery event, a separate library program to get students engaged in the library, and as preparation for the upcoming murder mystery event.

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Teen Read Week at Rancho Cucamonga Public Library

Greetings from the Rancho Cucamonga Public Library in Rancho Cucamonga, CA! We are honored to receive this year’s Teen Read Week Grant and are excited to share our plans for our upcoming programs.

Following this year’s Teen Read Week theme “It’s Written in the Stars… READ,” our programs are centered around an outer space theme. We also chose the book Railhead by Philip Reeve (which is set in several galaxies) to be our focal point. With the help of the grant, we will be able to purchase several copies of Railhead, which will be distributed a month prior to our programs to our teens. The goal here is to provide our teens with the reading material so they can discuss and analyze the novel while relating it to their hands-on experiences during the programs.

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Gimme a C for Collaboration: Meeting the Needs of Special Education Classrooms through Outreach and Advocacy

Last fall, I was approached by a teacher at Asbury Elementary, a public, K-5 school in my library’s service area, about bringing library resources into his special education classroom. As someone with almost no training in special education, forming this partnership has given me a greater awareness of how to best meet the needs of children who experience disabilities, both in the context of school outreach as well as in a traditional public library setting. I’m inspired to gather and share resources with my colleagues on how to effectively reach and serve children who experience a range of developmental, emotional, and physical disabilities, and how quality intersectional literature can aid educators and caregivers in understanding complex identities.

Background

Enacted in 1975, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) establishes the provision of a free and appropriate public school education for eligible students ages 3–21. According to the The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 13 percent of public school students received special education services in the 2015-2016 school year (National Center for Education Statistics, April 2018.) Given the significant number of students receiving special education services in our public schools, now is a critical time for both school and public librarians to evaluate how we can better serve this population in every context. More importantly, now is a critical time to examine intersectionality and its role in the perception and portrayal of minority and traditionally underrepresented groups of children who also experience a range of disabilities.

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Research Roundup Blog – Year-Round Teen Services

Welcome to Research Roundup. The purpose of this recurring column is to make the vast amount of research related to youth and families accessible to you. To match the theme of the fall issue, this column focuses on year-round teen services by examining current articles that share opportunities to mentor teens and support their leadership development.

“The Value of Continuous Teen Services: A YALSA Position Paper” available at http://www.ala.org/yalsa/value-continuous-teen-services-yalsa-position-paper. In April 2018, YALSA published a position paper recommending school and public librarians “support healthy adolescent development, teen interests, and work to help mitigate the issues teens face by providing year-round teen services.” Current research also points to the value of including teens in the planning process to ensure authentic learning experiences and provide young adults with opportunities for leadership and personal growth.

“Adulting 101: When libraries teach basic life skills” available at https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2018/05/01/adulting-101-library-programming/. A popular new idea in year-round teen services involves teaching basic life skills. Adulting 101 programs might have originally been planned for older patrons, however librarians are reporting high attendance from teenagers. Teresa Lucas, assistant director of North Bend Public Library in Oregon, and library assistant Clara Piazzola “created a monthly series of six programs focused on cooking, finances, job hunting, news literacy, apartment living, and miscellaneous topics such as cleaning an oven and checking engine oil” (Ford 2018). Programming costs are minimal and oftentimes community members volunteer to teach specific areas of expertise. Adulting 101 series provide a meaningful service to teenagers preparing for their future.

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Stories to Service at the Johnson City Public Library

The Johnson City Public Library (Johnson City, TN) began a new teen program called Stories to Service after receiving the YALSA Symposium Programming Challenge Award in 2018. Stories to Service is a teen volunteer program that combines literature with volunteerism through service projects and book clubs. The projects are both planned and implemented by teen volunteers between ages 12-18. Participants will gather to decide what service area they would like to focus on. Then the participants will read a book centered on their selected topic, discuss it together, and complete a project related to the book.

JCPL’s Teen Services Manager, Katelyn Wolfe, drew inspiration for this program from various discussions at the YALSA Symposium in November 2017, including presentations on teen volunteers and an author panel discussing Rudine Sims Bishop’s essay Windows, Mirrors, and Sliding Glass Doors. Her goal was to create a program that accommodated the large number of teens who needed volunteer hours but also gave them an opportunity to connect with their community in new ways. Upon returning to the library, Katelyn brought the idea to the Teen Advisory Board members, who were immediately on board and began brain-storming possible ideas.
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Teen Read Week: Planning a School-Wide Read Program

When I read Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds for the first time last year, I was completely overwhelmed–this story was about my students! So many of them have lost family and friends due to gun violence, and many of them have been faced with similar emotional tragedies in their lives. So I wanted them to see that their feelings and experiences are valid by reading a book written by a man who looks like them and understands them and IS them. But being a Title 1 school means funds are tight, and purchasing class sets of books (especially enough for all classes to read at the same time) is just not in our budget without help. YALSA’s Teen Read Week Grant is that help, and I am incredibly grateful.     

When I saw that the Teen Read Week Grant was open for applications in May, I immediately texted my reading teacher and asked her what she thought about the potential of doing a school-wide read next year with a Jason Reynolds book. She responded with a resounding “YES” and I filled out the application. And then we were selected, and the brainstorming began.  

But how do you plan a reading program for students who are reluctant readers? You make it relevant!

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