Apply now for YALSA’s 2017 Summer Learning Resources and Teen Summer Intern Grants

The applications for YALSA’s 2017 Summer Learning Resources and Teen Summer Intern grants is now open.

Through generous funding from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, two grants are available: the Summer Learning Resources Grant and the Teen Summer Intern Program Grant. The purpose of the grants is to help libraries combat the summer slide, as described in YALSA’s position paper, “Adopting a Summer Learning Approach to Increase Impact.”

Twenty summer learning resources grants, worth $1,000 each, will be awarded to libraries in need and will allow them to provide resources and services to teens who are English language learners, struggling in school and/or who are from socio-economically challenged communities. Twenty teen summer intern program grants, also worth $1,000 each, will be awarded to libraries to support the implementation of summer learning programs while also providing teens a chance to build hands-on job skills.

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Teen Read Week: A Time to Come Together

Teen Read Week at our school, Findlay High in Findlay, Ohio, has become a time when the library opens wide its doors and invites in a huge variety of people to come share themselves with the school. Last year this included culinary students one day and a menagerie of animals another day. This year we are bringing together the international students from a local university together with our high school students to explore language and culture in a variety of ways in our library.

The networking that comes about from coordinating these events is fantastic. I made contact with the Japanese Outreach Initiative Coordinator at the university. This contact has opened up the opportunity to involve Japanese exchange students to our programming events. The more the merrier! The JOI Coordinator also asked if we would be interested in having a Korean student do a bit of programming, and we were thrilled to welcome her, as well. Once we connect with the student organizations when they return to campus, we will include students from India, Saudi Arabia, and Nepal, as well.

As a high school with 82% of students identifying as White, in a city where 91% of the population in the 2010 census identified as white, there is not a lot of opportunity for students to talk to and learn from people who grew up in other countries and speak different languages. This experience will be good for our students, and I hope it will be enriching for our staff, as well.

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Teen Read Week: An Immersive Experience

This year I am extremely honored and thankful to be a YALSA Teen Read Week grant recipient. I took my time this year deciding what I would do for Teen Read Week. My past Teen Read Weeks had been small in scale. Last year I had teens write a short book review and enter it for a raffle prize (a set of books related to last year’s theme). What could I do this year to really encourage a wide variety of teens to participate, and get excited about reading? I decided to combine a reading program for the month with a fun incentive: Read 1 book for the month of October, get an invitation to our International Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre!!

This year’s theme is “Read for the fun of it”, encouraging multicultural reading and involvement. For the month of October, teens can sign up to be part of our online reading program where the goal is simple: Read 1 book for the month! I wanted an achievable goal, to encourage teens of all reading interests and levels to take part. Upon registering, they will receive a bookmark with suggested multicultural YA books. They won’t be required to read these books, as I really want all teens to be able to participate.  I also wanted a non-reading related incentive, to encourage teens who wouldn’t normally read to do so, thus the murder mystery! I will probably give everyone an Applebee’s Ice Cream Coupon for finishing their book too, for those who aren’t into mysteries. I decided to extend Teen Read Week to a month long celebration, as many teens would find 1 week a daunting time constraint to read a book.  Finally, I will be adding a Teen Foreign Language collection, as part of the grant, to encourage ESL students to become involved as well. I will be working with the school literacy coaches to spread the word and encourage as many students as I can to participate.

Once we have our ‘guests’ invited, it’s time to put on the show! Upon completion of 1 book read, teens will receive the highly coveted and illustrious invitation to the event of the year- An Assassin in Our Midst: An International Interactive Murder Mystery. Thanks to the grant, we will be able to serve a variety of foods from different cultures for our dinner. Guests will be given programs with their team number, a list of the suspects, space to write notes, and a tear out for their team’s murderer guess. Suspects will be played by members of the Teen Advisory Board, with whom I will have at least 2 practices ahead of time. The TAB members will receive character descriptions, and then they will improvise based on who their character is. Each team will get to speak with and question all of the suspects to determine who was involved in the assassination of an important diplomatic figure. Intrigue, fun, and suspense are sure to ensue!

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Back to (After)School – Desperately Seeking Teens for TAB

With school back in session, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and recruit new blood for our Teen Advisory Boards (TAB). If you already have a good group as it is, it’s still a great idea to recruit new members as their perspective would be incredibly valuable as every teen brings new and interesting ideas. Although some of us may be reluctant to have a large TAB, the sky is the limit when it comes to the size of TAB because the more passionate teens we get, the more spectacular results we will get!

As we recruit new members, it’s super important to get the incoming freshmen on TAB. Freshmen literally have a full four years before they graduate, which means they are more inclined to stick with TAB as they  have a bit more flexibility and availability compared to upper classman who are swamped with AP classes, extracurricular activities, and applying for college.  By taking an interest in lower classman, not only will they find a sense of purpose, they will feel like they a part of something that won’t require tryouts or anything intimidating. However, before we start recruiting like crazy, it’s a good idea to review our applications, guidelines, and procedures just so we can outline what we expect from TAB members.

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Back to (After) School: A Week of Passive Programs

You know how it goes: it’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon and suddenly the library has become overtaken by teens! This after school rush is prime time for library staff to engage teens on a variety of levels, whether that be through interest-driven activities or by encouraging them to learn a new skill; the opportunities are limitless. Passive programming is a great way to do this without throwing teens right back into the structured learning environment that they just left. Teens need a chance to unwind, however, exploration and discovery doesn’t need to stop! When I first took up my position as library staff working with teens, I was overwhelmed by the potential for programming that I felt should be happening after school hours. I tried to push everything into this limited time frame and as I was feeling burned out, I realized my teens were too. I turned to passive programming to change things up and offer a different variety of learning opportunities for teens after school.

Use your space: At my library, Zion-Benton Public Library in the northern Chicago suburbs, we recently opened a teen space during the summer of 2015. This space has provided us with plenty of opportunities for cohesive, creative passive programming. During the first few months after the teen space’s debut, we asked teens to help us promote the new space by taking a creative selfie that answered the question, “how do you use the teen room?” We asked them to post it on social media and get the word about the opening. It was a lot of fun to see the different ways that teens enjoyed the space! Don’t have a dedicated teen room? Set out a monthly guessing jar for teens, or a weekly (or daily!) riddle out on your reference desk. You can still engage teens and provide some fun passive activities for your daily visitors.

 photo 12376848_1140853169281789_1585423341534969787_n_zpswwbl728q.jpg Get teens involved: I decided to use teens to promote various programs by encouraging them to take a selfie with a particular book or performing a specific activity. For example, every April we host an author festival for teens at our library. I will put the visiting author’s books out on a table a week before the festival with a sign encouraging teens to create word art that predicts what the books are about, based on the book’s cover. If they take a selfie with the book and their sign, post it on social media and tag the library, we give them some kind of small incentive. Teens come up with some pretty crazy ideas based on the book’s cover. We usually call this passive program, “Judge a Book by It’s Cover.” It’s always a hit. You could do the same kind of activity with teen book reviews as well.

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Back to (After) School: Community Service for Preteens

More and more these days, teens and preteens are expected to participate in community service for their school requirements. This is a great opportunity for teens and preteens to give back to their community and learn skills that are helpful in their lives, education, and career. For a library, it can often be difficult to accommodate the vast number of teens and preteens who wish to participate. It is also difficult dealing with different ages and abilities.

In my library system, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, we have a program for older teens, ages 14 – 18, that they apply to, are interviewed for, and dedicate their time for a semester. Because of the responsibilities that are given to these teens, it would be difficult to accommodate those that are younger. This is why our system developed the Community Service Project for Preteens program(s).

The Community Service Project for Preteens is a great way for youths, aged 11 – 14, to earn their community service requirements, but they are also given tasks that are more appropriate for their age. These preteens are not required to apply, as if for a job, they simply have to register to come and complete the given task. By having preteens register for the program, staff are able to control the number of participants, but it also teaches preteens the responsibility of signing-up on time. These programs often fill up fairly quickly, and we do not allow a waiting list due to the quantity of the materials, etc. By meeting the deadline for registration, preteens are gaining responsibility for themselves. 

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How to Bring Digital Literacy to Your Library

Over the last few years the library world has been buzzing about programming in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and coding, the new digital literacy. For many librarians like myself, who come from a humanities background and are used to planning programming around books and literature, this new digital literacy can seem daunting. Add in the fact that many celebrated STEM and coding programs are backed by large budgets, multi-system libraries, and lots of staff, and the idea of putting together a meaningful program at your own library can seem almost impossible! However, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need a big budget and oodles of staff to bring computer science to your community. You just need Girls Who Code.

GWC2Girls Who Code is a national nonprofit aimed at closing the gender gap in tech. As the name Girls Who Code indicates, women are still vastly underrepresented in the tech industry – just 18% of computer science graduates are women. Girls Who Code is working to change this with their FREE Clubs program that teaches middle and high school girls how to code after school during the academic year. The organization partners with volunteers like libraries to host and facilitate the Club curriculum – all you need to host your own Club is space, computers, internet and leadership. The program goes beyond just exposing young people to the hard skills of computer science, it also fosters soft skills like public speaking, networking, and collaboration. Additionally, the Girls Who Code network includes a supportive and active community of over 10,000 girls across the country.

 

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Back to (After) School: Programming with Food in an After-School Club

As many library staff members have noticed, the library is a great place for teens to go after school. Whether it be for studying, working on projects, or a safe place to wait for a parent, teens are visible in the library after school.  At my branch, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library at University City, we have a group of teens that come after taking early college classes at our local university down the road. Library staff have noticed that the teens come into the branch around two o’clock, and stay until their parents get off work; often, this is not until around five o’clock. That aspect got teen library staff thinking. What can we do to provide teens snacks, but in a fun, educational way? And thus, Cuisine Corner was born.

Cuisine Corner is a club that teen library staff developed to help high school students learn to cook simple things during after school hours. This program provides them with a fun snack, but also teaches them ways to cook for themselves. This is a great skill for high school students to take with them to college. Not only are library staff teaching teens a life skill, but, often, the teens are teaching each other things to cook. The club also coincides with The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action. The shared idea, for the envisioned future, is that teens are “learning a skill of personal, work, or academic interest.”

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How to Get Teens Fit and Happy Through Collaboration and Creativity

Now that school is out, it’s time to discuss with our teens about the value of healthy habits and lifestyles. When we talk about healthy habits, we need to think beyond physical fitness and focus on all aspects of healthy living which includes the mind, body, and soul. With the new YALSA Organizational Plan in place, we now have a framework to take these concepts to our teens and ask them what they would like to see in the library and how we (staff and patrons) can successfully develop these ideas.

One important that libraries need to consider is to implement, or increase, programs and/or services to help teens develop a positive sense of well-being in order to navigate this chaotic world. As the organization plan brilliantly states “Today’s adolescents’ face an expanding array of social issues that place them at physical and psychological risk, and libraries can help. Libraries can contribute to solving and alleviating the issues and problems that negatively impact teens, and can put more teens on the path to a successful and fulfilling life.” Although this concept is not new to us, the big question is how do we develop solid services that will get teens into the library? The best place to start is to consult our core group of teens who either volunteer, are part of our advisory groups, and teens who do, and do not, participate in library programs.

When we ask teens about what they would like to see in the library it’s important to provide options. In other words, we need to break down what we mean by a “positive sense of well-being” which is basically what can the library do to promote healthy lifestyles in regards to the mind, body, and soul. Whether it’s about offering meditation workshops, reading buddy programs, gaming programs, dance classes, arts and crafts workshop, and/or buying books and audiovisual materials for self-improvement,  we want to encourage teens to tell us what would bring them to the library. If we don’t have a core group of teens who visit the library, pose this question during outreaches or via social media. As teen library staff, we must take advantage of every opportunity we can to communicate with teens even if it’s not library-related. Lastly, if teens still can’t decide on what they would like to do, bring in your community partners to talk more about the importance of good eating habits, mental health, and civic engagement. When teens have a better understanding of what it is we are trying to do, let’s bring in professionals to guide the decision-making process. When the teens have given us the feedback we need, we can move forward with these services as they are relevant and distinct to our teen communities.

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