Teen Avatar Design Contest for Jack Gantos and Meg Cabot

Today, teens had the opportunity to enter their avatar designs for Jack Gantos and Meg Cabot for a contest in Teen Second Life so that they can wear them when they come to TSL to interact with the teens. The enthusiasm and creativity were wonderful. We talked about what Jack and Meg write and some of the teens shared that they identified with some of the characters.

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Serving Teens Behind Bars

Posted by Kelly Czarnecki

I’ve recently started providing outreach to the teen male population at a local Jail facility in NC. The speakers at this presentation had well developed, successful and award winning programs for incarcerated teens with lots of great ideas. Jack Gantos, author of Hole in My Life, spoke after the panel and recounted his own experiences in jail and as a writer. Michele Gorman moderated through her involvement on YALSAs Criminal Elements booklist.

What the panel seemed to have in common was a genuine desire to work with and not judge these readers, to meet them where they were at in their reading levels and interests, and not take no for an answer.

In the programs represented by the panel, incarcerated teens have participated in author visits (started off with just cold calling authors to see if they’d speak at the jail), storytellers, and musician visits,
Great Stories Book CLUB recipients, visual art on display at city hall, created partnerships with the judge, probation officer, teen and librarian to read and discuss books, produced a literary magazine and provided readers advisory.

While a mutual goal was to increase awareness of the library as an important community resource and to use literature as a vehicle for discussion, outreach to a jail is not without its obstacles. Funding (grants, scholarships, and donations sought), security (we are part of the library’s security program by being there), and staff (one jail staff member was teasing a teen that they should read the picture book b/c they weren’t smart enough to read. This interaction turned into the teen joking with the staff and choosing the book anyway. While we might not understand or respond in the same way the jail staff does, we need to understand, most have the heart to work there with the teens and connect with them too) can be challenging.

Outcomes:
Reduction in recidivism
Teens read a book for the first time and keep on reading
Reading helps with social and personal issues (Flinn’s Breathing Underwater was a catalyst to for a teen to talk with his girlfriend about her manipulative behavior toward him)
quote directly from a teen:

”Keeps my imagination moving”
(there were more but that’s all I have for now)

Check them out when you can:

Austin Public Library: Second Chance Books created by Youth Specialist, Devo Carpenter.

Hennepin County Library: Home School and Juvenile Detention Center created by Outreach Manager, Patrick Jones.

Johnson County Library System: Read to Succeed created by Teen Services Librarian, Tricia Suellentrop.

Alameda County Library: Write to Read created by one of this years Movers and Shakers, Librarian Amy Cheney.

There are many other libraries serving teens in jails. What kind of tips do you have to share? What has worked well? How many are not quite sure they are comfortable in offering library services to this teen population?

Booklist Forum

Posted by Beth Gallaway

I make it a point to get into twon in time to see the Booklist Forum at each ALA. Traditionally 8-10PM on Friday night, it is always a delight.

Mo Willems, former stand-up comic, opened with how to draw his famed pigeon: An “O” within an “O” for a head, a strategical placed pupil to indicate emotion), a sideways letter M for a beak, two lines for the neck and to deliniate a throat (sound effects optional), a “cirdrangal” (starts out as a circle with a triangular end) with a wing, stick legs and letter V’s for legs. “The faster you draw the more life it has,” said Willems, before congratulating us on our differently-styled brids and imploring us to “make people draw pigeons!”

Author Lisa Yee spoke about humiliation, headache and heartbreak in humor (Willems helpfully drew a large letter “H” to illustrate her alliteration) and talked about her everyday life that includes researching her books through spying, mostly on her children, blowing up peeps in the microwave (hint – put 2 in, stick a toothpick in each, and let the jousting begin!) and “dropping Mentos… into diet Coke to watch the explosions.” In her research to prove that guys can be sensitive (“Right? Right? Back me up, guys,” she asked of her fellow panelists – Lubar made a great show of laughing at this assertion) she gave us great and funny quotes from young readers. “Girls travel in wolf packs and just talk and talk and talk… about why unicorns have horns” Lisa’s son informed has informed her.

David Lubar was uproarious per usual, noting that now we’d all learned two lessons – don’t go on car rides with Mo and make sure Lisa doesn’t have Mentos when she’s drinking a Pepsi. He gave us some great reasons for writing humor:

  • Mark Twain lived til he was 75 – Kafta, 42
  • Angst is for whiners
  • High school would have been bearable if the Pearl had been funny

Punctuated by two signature Lubar booklists (“Great Books Set in New Orleans” and “Edgiest Books”), David (who is not bitter at all about his books being virtually ignored by bestowers of YA lit awards, really) touched on the need for more humor in fiction for teens. He doesn’t need to write books about kids with alcoholic parents and in other terrible situations: “I don’t write books about those kids… I write FOR those kids.”

Jack Gantos delivered a more sober speech about the background of comedy in the history of literature – the Homeric tradition of engaging the reader by making him/her her smarter than the protagonist. This is Gantos’s way of thinking about the reader when he was writing. Comedy is based on a foundation of truth, and is doubly successful when the character reinforces the reader’s view of the character’s stupidity. He also discussed his theory of dramatic comedy.

The evening ended a little early, but it was a great program – so full they had to bring in more chairs.