2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: Programming through Partnerships Enables Life Literacy at the Library

Ashe County Public Library (ACPL) was awarded the YALSA/Dollar General Summer Learning Resources Grant. With this funding, I designed a three-month-long program for and with teens broadly called Life Literacy at the Library (LLL). LLL was designed around the county’s most recent community health needs report, which identified three key areas of need for Ashe County residents: “mental/behavioral health, substance abuse and misuse prevention, [and] physical activity and nutrition” (CHR). Through both teen advisory councils and surveys, the teens voiced their desire for programs and collection development geared toward mental health, physical health and nutrition, and structured educational programming, all of which corresponded with the health needs report.

My department began researching ways we could provide teens with programming focused on these needs. We knew that partnerships with community organizations were going to be important, but it was in my reflection on LLL at the end of the summer that I realized how crucial partnerships are to creating a robust summer program.

Programming through partnerships benefited LLL in several ways. First, we were able to offer more variety in program options for teens. We held cooking and nutrition classes, dance classes, writing workshops, mental health classes, etiquette classes, and art classes. This variety worked well because teens could select classes based on their interests and comfort level. Additionally, the variety attracted teens who do not attend regular teen programming.

Programming through partnerships also connected teens with resources in the community of which they were not aware. A large percentage of our teens are home-schooled and utilizing partnerships helped broaden their knowledge of community resources and opportunities.

Teens gather around a table filled with food.

Teens learn to cook!

It also served to initiate new relationships and strengthen existing relationships between the library and community partners. Advertising our programs and our partners brought increased awareness of teen programming at the library, and I had several community members contact me about potential future collaborations.

The other partners I discovered through existing personal relationships. For example, my sister is an accomplished choreographer and gave the library an excellent discount to lead a dance class. The instructor who led etiquette classes is a friend of library staff. The published poet who led the writing workshops is a former English teacher of my department supervisor. A Safe Home for Everyone (A.S.H.E.) led the mental health classes. A.S.H.E. is a local non-profit that provides services to individuals who have experienced domestic and intimate violence, and the library had an existing partnership with A.S.H.E. Utilizing the social connections staff members have within the community is an excellent way to bring new opportunities to the library. The benefits of partnerships also extend to the partnering organizations. Several of the organizations we partnered with have community outreach goals, and the library can help meet those goals. For example, both the Ashe County Cooperative Extension and the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts seek to conduct community outreach as part of their organization’s goals. Ashe County Cooperative Extension led the cooking and nutrition classes, and the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts led the art classes. After researching the organizations’ missions and goals on their websites, a friendly phone call was all it took to secure these partners. I would advise contacting potential partners as early as possible, since both of these specific organizations fill their calendars quickly. I contacted them in January, within the same week I found out we had received the grant award. I continued to correspond with partners via email throughout the year, answering any questions they had and offering help or assistance when possible.

Finally, programming through partnerships saved the library and library staff enormous amounts of time, effort, and money. Eight of our nine LLL programs were led and co-sponsored by partners. My department and I were solely responsible for one program, a Teen Spelling Bee. Because of the time saved through partner collaboration, I was able to devote more time to planning this event. The teens loved the Spelling Bee and based on their feedback, our county librarian even suggested making a summer spelling bee one of our recurring events. Programming through partnerships for summer learning also served to maximize the grant award. We saved an enormous amount of money by working with our partners, most of whom gave us a discounted rate because of our relationships. With our savings, I was able to purchase more collection items and offer more programs. I wanted to stretch the grant award as far as possible and provide the teens with a full summer learning program with varied learning opportunities, and partner collaborations, along with the YALSA/Dollar General Summer Resources Grant, made it happen.

Molly Price is an Adult Services Librarian at Ashe County Public Library

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2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: The “Summer Slide” Happens in High School Too!

32 percent.  That is the number of students ages 15-17 that say they don’t read during the summer according to Education Weekly (Jones).  Of those teens who do read, they average two. Why? Distractions and lack of access to relevant and diverse reading materials during the summer months.  While I didn’t have the concrete proof of statistics that indicate teens weren’t reading over the summer, I knew in my heart this was true. The good news, 53 percent of youth readers from ages 6-17 state that they get the majority of their reading materials from the school library (Scholastic).  This speaks volumes about the importance of school libraries and their roles in preventing the “summer slide” even at the high school level. My goals through our summer reading/learning program is to encourage students to continue to increase their literacy skills by providing them with diverse, relevant and high interest materials over the summer.  Not an easy task with a shrinking budget and a lack of a diverse culture at our school. However, due to the generosity of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and YASLA Summer Learning Resources Grant that I was able to provide my students with access to a diverse and relevant summer reading program that provided each of them with a book to take home and read over the summer.  

As a high school librarian in Barre, Vermont, a socio-economically struggling school, I see everyday the decrease in student engagement surrounding the various literacy initiatives meant to decrease the achievement gap.  One of my biggest frustrations has been how to reach all students and help them to expand their summer reading and learning opportunities despite their own personal challenges in, and out of school. As a former History teacher, I recognized early in my career the importance of including multiple voices in the study of history. It is through this lens that I evaluated our school library collection and our summer reading program.  What I found was a program that was started with good intentions, but lacked student voice, relevant selections, and was more adult focused than student focused. By working with my teen advisory group and the English Department, we revamped our program and included a variety of voices meant to reach as many teens as possible.  

I love my student library advisory.  While they are typical teens and not always focused on the task at hand, they were instrumental in developing the summer reading collection to include a variety of choices.   Though our student body is majority white, we do have students of color and many LGBTQ students whose experiences need to be validated. My student advisory researched online, asked their friends and even looked over my professional magazines in order to identify various books that they felt best expressed the diversified experiences and populations found in our school.  I also put up a white board asking for suggestions in the library. Student input was invaluable in building momentum for the summer reading program this year. By allowing my teens to identify and suggest books, we created a summer reading collection that is diverse and encouraged even struggling readers to find a book of their choice. Surprisingly, one of the most popular selections for our struggling readers was the non-fiction book Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam by Elizabeth Partridge.  It proved that given a book based on interest, even the most reluctant readers can become excited by a book.  

Cover of Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree.

As James Patterson is noted as saying, “There is no such thing as a kid who hates reading.  There are kids who love reading, and kids who are reading the wrong books.”  

While the jury is out on whether students will actually read the books we selected this year, I am hopeful that when our school wide book discussion activity occurs in September, more students will be ready to participate and be excited by their choice.    

Because of YASLA’s Summer Learning Resource Grant, I am able to provide our students here at Spaulding High School with a relevant, diverse collection of summer reading materials to choose from that not only encouraged enthusiasm for our program, but allowed student choice to increase engagement. 

Additional Resources:

Jones, S. (2019, May 08). Students Increasingly Are Not Reading Over the Summer, Poll Finds. Retrieved August 13, 2019, from https://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2019/05/student_increasingly_do_not_re.html

Miller, D. (2019, June 17). If Kids Can’t Read What They Want in the Summer, When Can They?: Opinion. Retrieved August 12, 2019, from

https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=if-kids-cant-read-what-they-want-in-the-Summer-when-can-they

KIDS & FAMILY READING REPORT. (2019). Retrieved August 14, 2019, from https://www.scholastic.com/readingreport/summer.html

https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=if-kids-cant-read-what-they-want-in-the-Summer-when-can-they

 

Christine Smith is a high school librarian in Barre, Vermont.

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.
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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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Taking Teens to ALA

It’s 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning, two weeks after the end of school, when four teenage girls on their summer vacation meet me at school to get on a minibus and head to DC. Let me repeat—four teenagers came to school during the summer at 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Why?? ALA Annual of course!

Before I get into how awesome the day was with my teens, I would like to thank YALSA for providing my teens with the opportunity to come to ALA. My teens were a part of the session that YALSA hosted to receive input on the nominees for the 2020 Best Fiction for Young Adults. Along with the opportunity to give their opinions on a major awards list, all the teens who were a part of the session also received a badge to visit the exhibit hall and sat down for a pizza lunch with an amazing group of eight young adult authors.

Back to 8 a.m.—I climbed into the driver’s seat and my four girls settled on the brown bus benches that we all remember from field trips.  Before I could even start the engine, the conversation about books started. It didn’t stop for the entire 45 minute drive to DC, and I couldn’t stop smiling.  It was a librarian’s dream—four teens energetically and passionately talking about the books they love (or don’t). Four teens talking about the importance of representation in books—race, sexuality, gender, ability, etc… Four teens talking about which characters developed and which didn’t; about endings they loved or hated; about the pacing of plot.

My heart grew two sizes.
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The Most Dangerous Place on Earth

In the novel The Most Dangerouse Place on Earth one of the female characters’ thinks to herself, “As if middle school were a safe haven…when in fact it was the most dangerous place on Earth.” Of course that sounds like teenage hyperbole, however I would say that if you think about it it’s more reality for many teens than one might want to admit. While teenage lives may have some of the outlines of a nightmare, there are many assets for library staff and community members to leverage in order to support the successful growth and development of all teens.

When I think of the assets that library staff can promote for and with teens I often think of the Santa Ana (CA) Public Library. I was fortunate to visit the main library a couple of years ago, after getting to know the teen librarian, Cheryl Eberly. The library building itself is nothing to “write home about.” The building is a 1960 structure that has quite a bit of wear and tear. However, when I was inside the building I didn’t really notice that. Why? Because from the time I walked in to the time I left (about two hours later) it was clear that this is a community library in which staff members (teens and adults) are embedded in the Santa Ana community and that the work that happens inside, and outside of the building, is completely centered on community needs.
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Learning with YALSA This Summer

drawing of hands raised The teens in your community might be out of school for the summer (or just about to get out of school) however, library staff never stop learning. That’s why YALSA has some great options for you to keep your learning going this summer. Here’s what’s on YALSA’s continuing education calendar for June, July, and August:

New E-Course

Start at the End: Backward Design for Library Programming
7/8/2019 – 8/11/2019

This new online course, taught by Casey Rawson, a Teaching Assistant Professor at UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Information and Library Science, gives participants the chance think about what they would like their library activities for and with teens to achieve. Then with that in mind work backwards to determine what programs they might provide in order to reach that goal/impact. During the five week course participants will learn about the backwards design framework for planning. They will also have the chance to develop learning goals for their activities for and with teens and through those goals better articulate the value of the work that they do. You can learn more and register for this e-course on the YALSA website.
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SAAM at the Library

CONTENT WARNING: This post addresses sexual assault and domestic violence.

 

In 2015, I began collaborating with my local sexual assault and domestic violence shelter to offer library programming centered around Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October and Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) in April. SAAM was always the harder event to prepare for because the topic was one that many people feel uncomfortable discussing in public. While domestic violence is awful, it seemed that more people were willing to open up about their stories, whereas sexual assault is still something many don’t want to share. We had themes to guide us that were established by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center which really helped focus our project. In 2017, the theme was “Engaging New Voices” and the partners I worked with felt these new voices should be young people. We actually ended up using this theme for two years because in 2018 we continued to build the program and engaged teens.

The partnership between the library and the local sexual assault and domestic violence shelter was one that we built over several years. I did an outreach event in October 2014 which did not draw nearly as many people as I was hoping for. While at that event, I got to know the outreach team at the center and we decided to start collaborating on projects for April and the following October. From my standpoint, it was a good move because we were both going to promote the event and the advocates from the shelter would provide the voice of expertise. Our work together eventually grew into programming events for teens.

Programming events related to domestic violence and sexual assault for adults can be a challenge; for teens, it was scary territory. This was not something I had ever created a teen program for, but I knew it was something our regular teens would be interested in. I relied a lot on my partners from the shelter because they had done outreach to teens in local schools and actually had an action team of teens. Our discussions regarding SAAM began almost right after the previous SAAM event wrapped, with our first in person meeting occurring during the summer. At that meeting we would determine what we wanted to do. Would this be one big event? Are we doing multiple events? What target audience are we looking for? Part of the reason this process began so far in advance was because the space that the library used for programs could also be booked out by community groups as well as other internal departments that wanted to offer other programming. However, as a collaborative team, we also wanted to make sure we were all on the same page and were going over the hits and misses of the previous year.

When it was determined that we wanted to reach out to teens, I reflected back on what a program like that would look like in the library. After much conversation, the team decided to reach out to one of the local schools that assisted girls who were not thriving in a traditional school setting. In a nod to Project Clothesline, we opted to inform the young women at the school about the significance of Denim Day while we decorated jeans. All partners brought bubble paint and fabric markers to the school on a day in April. The shelter provided the jeans for decoration. Each partner claimed a specific time to be at the school and help lead the project in class. In all, I think every girl at the school was able to decorate a pair of jeans.

After the jeans were decorated, the school allowed us to leave them on their property for a few days. At that time, I picked them up and brought them to the library. The library’s main role was to facilitate an art show and provide girls the opportunity to be featured artists, stand by their jeans, and talk about the significance of the day to them. We had a few speakers that we arranged to come up and speak at the event. As a librarian, I welcomed everyone to the event and gave some general information about the library and why we partnered on this project. We then had speakers from the shelter and from our local NOW Chapter come up to speak about what is being done locally and at a national level. Finally, we gave a teacher from the school a chance to talk about the experience for the girls. Instead of the teacher speaking alone, the girls actually came up with her and explained what the event meant to them and what they learned.

From what SAAM programming was when we first began collaborating in 2015—to what it ended up being in 2018—was an interesting progression, especially as we worked our way into teen programming. I don’t think I would have had the confidence to do a teen event on sexual assault without those first two years, and I certainly don’t think I would have approached this topic without the partners I had. For additional resources, please visit the SAAM website. The event planning guide is a great resource for those who have never done an event like this before and want somewhere to start. In the guide, they mention a library book display. So, let’s just say you end up going with a book display. Consider reaching out to your local shelters to get feedback on your book display. Build that relationship and then work together on a project for next year.

Future Ready with the Library: Career Cruising @ Colorado Valley Communications

This post is written by Allison Shimek, a member of the second cohort of the YALSA Future Ready with the Library project, and a coach to members of the third cohort. Allison is the Director of the Fayette Public Library and Fayette Heritage Museum and Archives in La Grange, Texas. Contents of this post originally appeared on the Future Ready with the Library Community of Practice. Allison’s first post on her work as a part of the Future Ready project was published on the YALSAblog earlier this year.

13 teens in 6th – 11th grade attended an event at Colorado Valley Communications (CVC), a local telephone and internet provider. Of the total, eight teens were in middle school (6th – 8th grade). Most of the teens were the same from our first event at a local bank. We did also have a couple new faces.

photo of teens talking with CVC staffThe day began with four career exploration stations. The teens visited the NOC (network operation communications) room with several big screen televisions that displayed problems with towers and outages in the area. The company actually had a tower go down and a cut fiber line during the event so the teens got to see what happens in those instances and how problems appear on the screens. At another station teens learned how fiber is installed in the ground and how to splice fiber. At another station the teens explored how a fixed wireless network works and how locations for wireless are selected using Google Earth’s mapping tools. By entering their home address into the map teens had a chance to interact with the tools the telecom employees use. Last, teens learned about how technology has changed the way customers interact with CVC and how CVC markets to the community.
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22×20 National Campaign Taskforce

22×20 is a national campaign established by The Learning and Multimedia Project (LAMP) and CIRCLE, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement. Targeting the 22 million teens who will be eligible to vote in their first presidential election in 2020, this initiative seeks to build media literacy and civic engagement.

Since the project supports concepts central to YALSA’s vision and desired impact, the Board wanted to partner and support the initiative. Additionally, 22×20’s goals of equipping teens with the skills needed and connecting them with the resources and space to understand, evaluate, and respond to political messages support content areas of YALSA’s Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff.

In early-November, the YALSA Board discussed and voted on an in-kind contribution to support 22×20. Early this year, a taskforce will be appointed to create resources supporting the initiative. To learn more, read Item #11 on the Board’s 2019 Midwinter Meeting agenda.

Interested in serving on the taskforce? Watch the weekly YALSA e-News for taskforce volunteer opportunities.