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!
In the summer of 2017 the Russell Library in Middletown Connecticut, was accepted to participate in the national non-profit Girls Who Code©. Girls Who Code (GWC) partners with other groups, such as libraries, to prepare students for careers in technology fields by introducing computer programming. Starting in September 2017 the Russell Library offered its first GWC course for 20 weeks to a full class of 12 students and a waiting list! The popularity and the community’s positive response suggested that the library should offer the course again.
As a Teen Librarian with a MLS and no official Computer Science background, after the first session I realized I needed reinforcements. The YALSA/ Dollar General Grant fit the perfect spot to be able to offer the program again. (*Side Note- GWC suggests a CS Degree or CS experience is not necessary; that anyone can run a GWC program with the tools and resources they provide.)
The initial impetus in searching for a grant was our robust teen volunteer program, which offers important job preparation skills to the teens of Middletown. Teens volunteer at the library all year long, with the majority of the hours in the summer. During the brainstorming process, the concept transformed from volunteers assisting in all Youth and Family Learning Summer Learning Programs to two interns for a specific program, GWC.
The Keene Public Library in Keene, N.H., just finished a very successful Camp Fun to Read program. What made our program so successful was the opportunity to provide three paid teen internships which we were awarded through the generosity of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and YALSA. The interns served as reading and writing mentors or buddies to younger children who are beginning or struggling readers in our Camp Fun to Read Summer Reading Program. The goal of this program was to boost confidence and encourage young children who will be entering 1st through 3rd grades to take ownership of their own reading adventures. Camp Fun to Read took place at the library from August 6 – 17, Monday – Friday from 1-3 pm.
Our intern Macy and one of our Camp Fun to Read participants
We began the process of recruiting the interns while school was still in session when we contacted the school librarians, counselors, and teachers for referrals. A job description was created and approved by the City of Keene. A team of youth and teen librarians interviewed six candidates and three teens were selected. Two weeks before the start of the camp, teens attended a paid orientation program to acquaint them with the library and the goals of the camp. Interns then worked 4 hours each day from 12 – 4 for two weeks.
Teens worked with librarians and peers to develop and carry out activities designed to inspire young readers to explore their own reading and writing interests. Teens read to younger children and encouraged their independent and group reading activities. Interns assisted book selection, preparation of craft activities, set up and tore down for each session. Interns gained experience working with young children by engaging with them in a variety of activities involving reading, crafts, drama, and technology.
Marion County, South Carolina is rural and fairly spread out. The Marion County Library System relies heavily on bookmobile services to reach patrons in some of the farthest corners of the county and those who live in underserved areas. However, in recent years, bookmobile usage has begun to decline, especially among young adults and children, and the disparity between branch and bookmobile services has widened. This inequality of access is most apparent during summer reading.
Patrons who only receive bookmobile service are encouraged to track their reading and receive prizes during the summer months, but they do not receive any programming and our time with them is very limited. During Summer Reading 2018, however, the library system was given an incredible opportunity—turning the bookmobile into a programming-mobile.
With a Summer Learning Grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and YALSA, we were able to turn our bookmobile into a programming machine for the summer months and give some of the bookmobile children the full library experience!
Butler, Pennsylvania, is a small city 25 miles north of Pittsburgh. Parts of Butler can be fairly suburban, while other parts are quite rural. The Butler Area Public Library is located in downtown Butler, and serves a population of about 14,000. Two thirds of individuals ages 25 and over have had no post-secondary education. As a result, many of the teens that the library serves are preparing to be first generation college students; families are often not well prepared to teach the skills of adult life to their teens. While local schools have begun making an effort, teens are still finding themselves unprepared to transition into adulthood.
This is just a small sample of the materials we added to the YA Collection on various topics related to “adulting”.
BAPL was fortunate to receive grant funding from YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation to create summer programming to help teens work on learning or improving real world skills, such as job seeking, budgeting, and meal preparation. We planned six weeks of programming, with a different focus area covered each week. The goal of the program was to teach the teens soft skills and life skills in ways that were fun and engaging. We also used a portion of the grant funding to update our Young Adult Collection to have more materials that covered these topics.
Barrio Writers is a free, week long, college level writing workshop that is specifically geared towards youth in underserved communities. The program came to my attention through the direction of my colleague, Patricia Valdovinos, our former Outreach Services Librarian. She mentioned that she knew of a cool program an author friend of hers had started down in Santa Ana; I looked into it (you can too, https://www.barriowriters.org/), and knew almost immediately that we needed to bring the program to our youth.
2017 Barrio Writers and writing mentors at the Mary L. Stephens Branch in Davis, CA
Looking for a creative way to connect with teens at your library? Look no further! We’re here to tell you all about The Zine Project.
This summer, with generous support from YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, the Middle Country Public Library in Centereach, NY, hosted a hands-on workshop for teens to collaborate and have fun while making their very own zine.
Teens at the Zine Showcase with Nicole Rambo, Youth Services Librarian.
The Reading Public Library, Teen Loft located in Reading, PA provided three three-hour writing workshops this summer facilitated by professionals funded by the YALSA/Dollar General Summer Learning Grant.
- Ekphrastic Poetry: Motivos, a bilingual print magazine run by founder/publisher and former ALA National presenter Jenee Chizick-Aguero, provided a workshop on ekphrastic poetry. Teens used the elements around them and drew inspiration from things that were familiar to them such as music, movies, and artwork to find their creative voice. Jenee also encouraged them to submit their writing to her magazine for publication. She also shared resources her magazine provided such as scholarship information. The RPL also subscribes to her magazine so that they are available at all times.
- Short Story Writing: Young Adult author of Immaculate and Transcendent Katelyn Detweiler began with a discussion about how she got into writing, the challenges she faces and working for a publishing company in New York which gave teens insight into how a book is created from start to finish. Teens were then given prompts to help get them started.
- Comic Book Panels: Author and artist Jean Esther taught teens how to make their own comic book and the challenges he faced when creating his own. He also spoke about his journey as an artist. The workshop started off with basic drawing tips and tricks they could use to bring their drawings to the next level. After they created their main characters, they were ready to work on their storylines and share their work.
This summer, with support from the 2018 YALSA/Dollar General Summer Reading Learning Resources Grant, the Dover Public Library hosted two ¡Vamos a Jugar! (Let’s Play!) events featuring bilingual and vocabulary-building board games. From bilingual Bingo to You’ve Been Sentenced, I selected a wide variety of games to challenge and entertain Dover teens. Now that the teens and I have tested our collection, we can give you our top picks.
Juego de Palabras
KLOO’s Learn to Speak Spanish and Race to Madrid
KLOO’s Learn to Speak Spanish is a card game that teaches players Spanish with color coded cards. The Race to Madrid board and pieces turn the card game into a journey to the finish line, eliminating the need for a score sheet. While this is the most inventive, educational game on my list, the teens were not as interested as I had hoped. On a different day or with a different crowd, I think we could have a lot of fun expanding the game, making our own boards, and learning more Spanish together.
Fitz It is a card game that plays a little bit like Scrabble and a little bit like a riddle. The Fitz It deck contains over 250 cards with various phrases. The games begins with one randomly selected card in the middle of the table. Players then add to the grid with their own cards, but they have to say a noun that fits the description of all the cards in the row or column. A little difficult to explain, this game is a fun challenge once the initial concept clicks.
The Hall County Library System in Gainesville, Georgia serves a diverse community, with over 28% of the population Hispanic. The library system has made it a priority to better serve the county’s diverse community, as well as to provide more outreach services, especially in the eastern part of the county where the East Hall Branch had been closed due to budget cuts.
Allysa reviewing the children’s Spanish books with me. Photo by Deborah Hakes with GPLS.
HCLS received a generous grant from Dollar General to hire two bilingual interns to help during the 2018 Summer Reading Program. Their work would mainly focus on helping develop better library services to Hispanic youth and families. In addition, they would help assist at the summer pop up library and programs at the East Hall Community Center. One intern worked 16 hours a week in June and the second intern worked in July. Rising junior, Alyssa Ramos and rising senior, Doris Toledo were selected out of several applications. The first week of the summer reading program, Alyssa Ramos helped sign up patrons for library cards and the summer reading program at the Hispanic Alliance’s Health Fair. Alyssa and Doris also helped translate into Spanish new library marketing materials and community services information.