Back to (After)School – Rethinking a School Book Club

Our school reading specialist and I decided to revisit our middle school student book club. We took a year off from it for several reasons, not the least of which was lack of interest by students and us. It had been run like a traditional book club, everyone reads the same book and meets twice a month after school to discuss the book. Our problem was that our after school clubs meet for an hour and a half, and that time was too long to just discuss a book and choose the next one. We tried having everyone read a book by the same author to give more choice. We found a similar, disinterested reaction. Our students were happy to talk about the book for about half an hour, but wanted the rest of the time for social chat. We tried coming up with some related crafts to fill the time. Everyone painted one of the standard ceiling tiles with a reading theme or based on a book. This was a hit and made for a colorful library ceiling, but that only covered two meetings. We tried to make the book club available 24/7 through an Edmodo group to develop stronger relationships with our students, and get everyone to share what they were reading.The students found it to be just an extension of what some of their classes were already doing – it was too much like school. Our attendance dropped off, resulting in no book club for the last school year. We needed to regroup and rethink what a book club looks like for middle school students.

In the meantime, the library has had some spontaneous, pop-up or “lunch bunch” book clubs. Groups of four to six students create their own book club by reading the same book and meeting during lunch to read and discuss it. These clubs may read only one book and disband or choose to read several throughout the school year. Lunch bunches are not formal and are student led. Usually, student visitors will notice a lunch bunch eating and meeting in the library and then form their own with their friends. We just monitor to make sure the noise level is appropriate and suggest books when the club is stuck for ideas. It is very hands off for adult participation. A way to inspire students to create their own lunch bunch is to create a display of books that have multiple copies for a lunch bunch club. We hope our lunch bunches will meet again this year.

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Instagram of the Week – January 11

A brief look at ‘grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

This week is all about the books! From “New Year, New You” book displays to reading challenges and mock book awards, Instagram has been full of images of books for the last week. The transition into the new year provides an opportunity to make resolutions and try something new in the upcoming months. Libraries are using the start of the year to their advantage by showing patrons everything they have to offer including print collections, digital resources, and language learning tools.

Patrons who make a resolution to read more may be looking for “something different” to read and be open to suggestions that expand their horizons. One fun way to encourage patrons to pick up books unlike their usual selections is to host a reading challenge. Popular reading challenges include Popsugar’s Ultimate Reading ChallengeBook Riot’s Read Harder Challenge, and Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2016 Reading Challenge which all provide participants with a list of categories such as “A book based on a fairy tale” (from Popsugar’s list) or “A book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller” (suggested by Modern Mrs. Darcy) to guide book selection. The Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge asks participants to state the number of books they would like to read during the year and other challenges, such as the Hub Reading Challenge, provide a list from which participants select titles.

While there are a number of established reading challenges that can be shared with patrons, some libraries opt to create their own list. By doing so, libraries have an opportunity to include items that highlight all areas of the collection, not just print materials. For instance, categories such as “Check out a magazine on Zinio,” “Download free music from Freegal,” or “Find a book to read through NoveList” can either remind or introduce patrons to all the library has to offer. This is important because, as the Future of Library Services for and with Teens explains, today’s libraries should house collections that not only meet the needs and interests of teen patrons through print collections, but also through video and audio collections, databases, and e-content. Teens can even be involved in selecting the categories for the reading challenge which can drum up interest in participating.

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Kindles for Everybody at Washington Middle School, Seattle – a lesson in educational equity

Recently I was privileged to meet School Librarian Elaine Harger from Washington Middle School. She was talking about her library and mentioned the roll out of a technology one  to one program, and how the ways in which it didn’t do as planned. In libraries we rarely talk about what didn’t work, so I asked her if she would be so kind as to share with YALSA blog readers so that you can learn from her experience.

Below is her response.

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Book Clubs During School Hours for Students with Disabilities

While trying to get an overview of library services offered in my area, I spoke with a high school librarian who brought up an idea that seemed revolutionary to me. The librarian had previously been a special education teacher, so she purposely made her library services welcoming to this population.

Note: This particular high school still has a “Special Education” program. Most schools are inclusive, so students attend classes together, and those who have learning disabilities or special needs may have a tutor for certain subjects, or attend other learning activities to get extra help.

Because of her background, the librarian reached out to the current English teachers to form a book club for students with disabilities. She wanted to hold a weekly book club in the library during English class. Holding programs during school hours can be difficult, because there is already so much to do during a school day. But it increases participation, since many students ride the bus or have other after-school obligations, and often can’t stay late.

For the book club, students chose a book from three the librarian suggested—no required school reading, but instead books that were of an appropriate age level, deemed “fun” reads. She read aloud one chapter a week, and they were responsible for reading the next two chapters on their own, to discuss at the beginning of the next week’s meeting.

The librarian used the rest of the period to relate the book to skills that would help the students in English class. Sometimes they would have informal quizzes to help with reading comprehension. Students also learned how to pick a thesis and write a short critical essay, which the teacher accepted at the end of the semester for bonus points.

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Dhonielle Clayton @ #yalsa15

The Young Adult Services Symposium is not only great for networking, broadening your horizons but as well as meeting great authors! The author I would like to talk a little about is Dhonielle Clayton. Clayton has recently released her first novel, which she wrote with Sona Charaipotra entitled, Tiny Pretty Things. Clayton will also be releasing a fantasy book series, The Belles, in 2016. I am certain that if you are a teen librarian, you have heard the hot topic about needing more diverse teen books. Well, that’s where Dhonielle and Sona Charaipotra’s expertise comes in handy. They have cofounded CAKE Literacy. CAKE Literacy is described as a “commitment to creating delicious and diverse concepts for middle grade, teen and women’s fiction readers”.

Why CAKE? Well, usually when these two ladies would meet to discuss books and writing, they always had a slice of cake with their discussions. CAKE Literacy came about because they both shared love for the TV series The Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars and noticed how there wasn’t any diversity in those shows. Come to think of it, nearly all the fantasy genre books I have read, also lack diversity. With that in mind, I agree with Dhonielle and Sona and support CAKE Literacy! If you haven’t check out their website, please do! It’s visually stimulating. Don’t forget to visit Dhonielle Clayton at the 2015 YA Services Symposium.

The 2015 YALSA Young Adult Services Symposium will take place November 6-8, 2015 at the Hilton Portland & Executive tower. Register today!

–Annie Snell, YA Services Symposium Marketing and Planning Task Force

Instagram of the Week – September 28

A brief look at ‘grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

Banned Books Week kicked off yesterday, Sunday, September 27 and Instagram users are posting photos in celebration of their fREADom to read. Running from September 27 through Saturday, October 3, this year’s Banned Books Week focuses on young adult books. It may be easy to call to mind cases of challenged books and censorship that made their way to media outlets, but both the YALSA wiki and the American Library Association’s Challenges to Library Materials page remind us that a challenge can also include a patron expressing concern over an item or requesting that it be shelved in another collection. YALSA’s The Future of Library Services for and with Teens report lists intellectual freedom as one of the core values librarians should hold as they protect the rights of teens to access information and educate the community about intellectual freedom.

Are you doing something to celebrate Banned Books Week? Book lists, displays, games, posters? We want to know! Share with us in the comments section below.

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Get Away @Your Library: Setting Goals to Reach Underserved Teens

With our youth patrons returning to school, now is the perfect time to re-evaluate your community’s demographics and set goals to “Get Away” and connect with those underserved populations. As you consider where to start, the first step may seem daunting, but tackle the unknown in a way that is most comfortable for you. We’ll be sharing our ideas about setting goals during our Teen Read Week Twitter chat Setting Goals to Reach Underserved Teens onFriday, September 11 at 2 pm EST. If numbers and statistics read like a first language, you’ll probably have your own plan of action in which to gather information and compile results into charts and graphs. However, many of us need a different approach in order to ease our way into such unfamiliar territory and we offer a few ideas here.

Demographics from an insider view

Consider your teen patrons’ habits as a diving board into better knowing your community. For instance, if your teens often ask library staff for change to spare for food, comment about not eating breakfast, or are eager to attend library programs especially for the free snacks, you may want to further explore this trend. Start by investigating the nearby school’s stats on free and reduced lunches, the city’s poverty percentages, or the state’s caseload counter for food stamp families. The location of these resources will also provide other relevant data that may offer a more detailed view into the issue. Once you have a baseline of data, connect with local food pantries and other social service providers and start a conversation. You may discover any number of ways to partner with these organizations from creating a bookmark for the public listing the location of these services to facilitating meal programs.

Demographics from a bird’s eye perspective

Map the government, parks, nonprofit, and other community agencies within your library’s service area. If a particular trend in services exists, investigate its related statistical topics and connect with those organizations. Also, the types of businesses in your service may offer a starting point into better understanding your community. If you notice an unusual number of liquor stores in your area, you may check the location of rehabilitation centers or AA groups and connect with them. Another way to address your map of agencies, is to first connect with the organizations located nearest to your library, as those service are directly targeting your immediate area.

Take action with us in better understanding your community by joining the Teen Read Week Twitter chat on Friday, September 11 at 2 pm EST. Come ready to share your goals and gain new ideas and resources from your peers. When joining the Twitter chat, be sure to use #TRW15. See you there!

Amanda Barnhart is the current chair for YALSA’s Teen Read Week committee, an MLIS student, and a Young Adult Associate for the Trails West branch of The Kansas City (Mo) Public Library.

 

Instagram of the Week – July 27

A brief look at ‘grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

This week we’re looking at two ways to spice up your library’s Instagram account and engage users with library memes and opening lines of books. With websites that allow you to create your own memes using popular themes or uploaded images, the possibilities for witty library humor are endless! For #firstlinefriday or #firstsentence posts on the first of each month, some libraries share opening lines of books as a way to engage followers with trivia, to advertise an upcoming book club, or showcase new materials in the collection.

Have you created memes for your library’s social media accounts? Have a preferred go to meme generator? Posted any opening lines? Share with us in the comments section below!

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Including Parents in Programming for Teens with Disabilities

Teens strive for independence, branching out to explore new interests and behaviors. They depend on their friends for support and feedback, leaving their parents in the dark about what they’re doing, thinking, and feeling.

Teens with disabilities often don’t have the same opportunities to test their independence. They might depend on their parents or caregivers for help getting around or being understood. Their parents might prefer to stay close, in case their teen has a behavior or needs special medical attention. “Inclusion and integration of children with special needs is based upon a strong collaboration between the parent and the librarian” (Feinberg et al. 20-21). Parents know their children best, and librarians can watch that interaction to learn how to effectively work with teens with disabilities in the library.

As a librarian, you can offer inclusive programming that welcomes all teens, with or without disabilities—and also includes parents! By encouraging family fun, you’re getting families to explore and enjoy the library together, regardless of ability level. You’ll also be giving teens with disabilities a place to let loose and be themselves around peers, but to still have their parents close by without looking childish to others.

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Get Away @ Your Library!

Get Away @ Your Library can mean a lot of different things to different people. When I think of it I think about why I read. One of the best things about reading is how it takes you to new and exciting places. Whether it is books about other cultures, time travel or historical events, books take us beyond our everday lives.

I love to read historical fiction, fantasy, and science fiction because I love being taken outside my normal day-to-day world. With historical fiction, I learn so much about other time periods and get some insight into what it must have been like to be in that period. Certain periods are so far removed from our current world that they may as well be classed as Fantasy or Science Fiction. Speaking of which, when it comes to Fantasy and Science Fiction I am amazed by the worlds created by the author.

My newest interests are reading about books that take place in other cultures or countries. Sometimes you don’t even have to go very far away from home. Reading books about people from rural areas when you yourself live in an urban area or vice versa can take us into a place we have never experienced. Other cultures also help us to be more empathetic and knowledgeable about what we do not understand.

Some of the books that have taken me to other places that I highly recommend include The Precious Stone trilogy be Kerstin Gier, The Colours of Madeleine by Jaclyn Moriarty, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, The Grisha Series by Leigh Bardugo and so much more. Please check out the TRW Pinterest page for more recommendations!

 

Kristyn Dorfman is a School Librarian at Packer Collegiate Institute, Brooklyn, NY.