A brief look at ‘grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.
Last week marked the end of Nanowrimo. In case you haven’t heard of Nanowrimo it is a writing challenge with a name comprised of the condensed words: National November Writing Month. This annual call to write has swelled to include more than 53,000 writers from 6 of 7 continents. This challenge attracts big named published authors like Rainbow Rowell and Carrie Ryan. Fangirl by Rowell is a Nanowrimo book. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan…that’s a Nanowrimo book too. Nanowrimo churns out a fair number of YA literature every year and attracts more and more young adults as participants each year. Since 2005, Nanowrimo has been hosting YWP – Young Writer’s Program – for students in grades K – 12. When users turn 18, they are directed to the main site, where the word requirements jump from 30,000 for the month to 50,000.
As we all know (and to the lament of Nanwrimo writers across the United States), with the end of November comes Thanksgiving and Black Friday. So in the midst of basting turkeys, Walmart brawls, football games and #ThanksgivingClapback dinner conversations, Nanowrimo writers continued to write – and guess what? Many of them actually finished, and then they did something even more awesome — they posted their experiences on Instagram! Nanowrimo writers posted quotes that inspired them, strategies for rising to the challenge, pictures of laptops, and furry writing buddies. There were lots and lots of pictures with coffee! Coffee with swirls, coffee in cute bookish mugs, coffee next to laptops, and then next to laptops and furry writing buddies… There were lots of pictures of food! My goodness, are Nanowrimo writers foodies or what!?
If you missed this year, get inspired for next year, or catch the motivation to start your own writing club. You could give your youth a monthly word challenge! Make it something fun with just a pinch of challenge! Empower your teens. Let them tell their stories, and maybe let them explore ways they can publish their work. Page 3 of the Future of Libraries for and with Teens report states:
“Now is the time for public and school libraries to determine how they can contribute to solving and alleviating the issues and problems that negatively impact teens. Cultural competence preparation for future and current school and public library and information professionals is one place where these issues can and should logically be addressed since many of the statistics cited above stem from structural issues such as institutional racism, classism, and sexism. However, research suggests that some LIS students feel ill-prepared to deliver this kind of culturally competent library service upon graduation. Cultural competence has to do with recognizing the significance of culture in one’s own life and in the lives of others; and to come to know and respect diverse cultural backgrounds and characteristics through interaction with individuals from diverse linguistic, cultural, and socioeconomic groups; and to fully integrate the culture of diverse groups into services, work, and institutions in order to enhance the lives of both those being served by the library profession and those engaged in service.”
By empowering your teens to tell their own stories, to start something and see it through to the end. Teaching teens to navigate the process of editing and publishing their own written work fills the cultural competency void, but it also seeks to narrow the #WeNeedDiverseBooks gap. Nanowrimo writers posted memes about the healing power of writing in fighting suicidal ideation and depression. They posted happy face selfies – the seal of empowerment for having met their literary goals for the month against school/work demands, against #ThanksgivingClapback, and family/home obligations. Page 3 of the Future of Libraries for and with Teens report also states:
Accordingly, preparing young adults for the workforce is a major concern in the United States. In the last three decades, the skills required for young adults to succeed in the workforce have changed drastically, but the skills emphasized in schools have not kept up with these changes.34 This has led to a widespread concern that young adults lack the necessary skills for job success and are entering the workforce unprepared. Several recent studies, including Workforce Preparation in the Context of Youth Development Organization35 and Literacy Skills and Self-Views of Ability among First Year College Students,36 have documented this skills gap. Now is the time for school and public libraries to reimagine themselves as 21st-century learning spaces.
Writing is a critical skill quickly being eroded in the age of text, tweets, and emoticons. Nanowrimo is a way for young adults to express themselves in a connected learning environment where they are able to say what they want to say in their own voice. Which brings us to our next point that can be found on page 8 of the Future of Library Services for and with Teens report:
At the heart of connected learning is the idea that young people learn best when that learning is connected to their passions, desires, and interests. This focus correlates strongly with the learning ecosystem and learning needs of the teen of 2020 that Rainie described in his summit presentation. As noted in the CLRN report: The connected learning model posits that by focusing educational attention on the links between different spheres of learning—peer culture, interests and academic subjects—we can better support interest-driven and meaningful learning in ways that take advantage of the democratizing potential of digital networks and online resources.
Having said that, enjoy this homage to the final week of Nanowrimo, and if your library participated in youth writer’s circles and posted on Instagram, maybe you’ll see yourself and hopefully you’ll be inspired to participate next year.