This year our library was selected as one of the recipients of the YALSA/Dollar General Summer Learning Resources Grant. We chose to use the awarded funds to provide “starter” books to incarcerated teens in our county’s juvenile detention center and to our local school district’s summer high school ESL program. By providing the students with a book up front, we were able to give them the tools necessary to spend a summer reading and improving their literacy skills.
This partnership was not a new one to us as we have worked with these groups in summer of 2018 as well, but this year was special because we were able to provide the kids with the tools to succeed right off the bat. In 2018, the students participated in our summer reading program by borrowing books from their teachers and counselors but this year we were so excited to give them their own book to keep as soon as they signed up.
Instead of buying a variety of books for the students to pick from, we bought each participating student a copy of Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X. We felt this book really represented the teenage experience well and that the students reading it would find it appealing as well. Our hope was that each child reading the same book would lead to lively discussion and team building in their group. This also provided another great outreach opportunity because our two teen librarians were able to go out to the sites, meet the students participating, and book talk one of their favorite books. Our ESL group had never read the book before but their teacher had. The class decided to swap out the group reading they had previously chosen for this one instead. At the detention center, several students had read the book before but enjoyed it so much they were happy to receive their own copy to keep. They even helped us make our book talk more appealing by commenting on how much they enjoyed reading it and pushed their classmates to give it a chance as well.
Overall, 32 students participated in just a few short weeks and read a total of 15,600 minutes which averaged to about eight hours per person. After completing their first five hours of reading, each student received another free book courtesy of our Friends of the Library group to keep as part of their completion prize. We heard very positive reviews about The Poet X from students and teachers. Money leftover from purchasing the book was then used to stock and replace books in the counselor’s library at the detention center.
Sarah Ward is the Teen Services Librarian at Denton Public Library – South Branch.