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.

Annual 2015: Oakland PL’s Youth Leadership Council

This is a guest post from Perla Casas, a 2015 high school graduate. She will be part of the panel speaking on Sunday June 28th at 4:30 pm as part of “Empower Your Teens! Civic Engagement Strategies That Work.”

The Youth Leadership Council (YLC) is a youth-driven advisory board for the Oakland Public Library. The YLC creates support strategies to improve its service for patrons and promotes the library simultaneously. The YLC is made up of twelve individuals from the ages of thirteen to eighteen. I was sixteen years old when I first stumbled across the YLC application at the TeenZone in the Main Library. I have always enjoyed reading and I am passionate about libraries, so I thought this group would be a perfect fit for me. After a nerve wracking three month application process, I was finally accepted as a member. Continue reading

Virtual Road Trip: New Jersey

Teen Advisory Board Summits

For the third year, the New Jersey Library Association and the New Jersey State Library are proud to support the state-wide Teen Advisory Board Summits. The intention of this program is to allow teens who advocate for libraries to really get a chance to meet other like-minded teens who are also passionate in their love for their libraries.NewJersey

Libraries and librarians have professional meetings where we can share experiences and feel a sense of community, but Teen Advisory Boards can feel isolated and there were no resources in place to allow them to all interact. Continue reading

Virtual Road Trip: Maine

A Project that Brings Teens Together

At the Ellsworth Public Library (in Ellsworth, Maine) we have a small, but dedicated Teen Advisory Board.’  They are willing to help out with anything from craft prep to after school programs.’  During the meetings we talk about upcoming volunteer opportunities (as well as brainstorming for future teen programs and watching the occasional YouTube video).’  This is great because the TAB members can get their required volunteer hours and I have a wonderful, helpful group of teens to work with.’ maine

However, I have been looking for a project they could relate to.’  This year, I think I found it–the CSLP Teen Video Challenge.’  Inspired by the teen slogan for CSLP 2014 (“Spark a Reaction”) the teens have written, directed, and filmed a short video to promote summer reading.’  We happen to have a couple of aspiring film makers in the group who are studying video at a local technical school, Hancock County Technical Center, so we partnered with them to produce the video. Continue reading

Virtual Road Trip: Oregon

Katie Anderson, Youth Services Consultant for the Oregon State Library says when the Virtual Road Trip was proposed, she “immediately thought about all the Oregon libraries tweaking their teen programs in small and big ways to provide more college and career readiness activities. Attached is just one example of what Oregon libraries are doing.”oregon

TLC Interviews—Preparing Teens for Real-Life!

By Dawn Borgardt, Beaverton City Library

It’s not a new idea, and many of you probably already do this. I just started last year, so I want to add my two-cents to the conversation in favor of formalizing your Teen Library Council (or whatever you call it at your library). Last year, we instituted an application process in the month of July and interviewed every applicant. Interviews were short and we accepted everyone who interviewed –it’s not really a process of weeding out the unqualified as it is finding out who is really interested and committed. We only asked three questions during the interview, so each interview took about 15 minutes. When you multiply that by 17 and add the time it took our Volunteer Manager to schedule the interviews, it does take extra staff time. But the payoff is so worth it! Continue reading

30 Days of How-To #9: Build a Sense of Community

Many librarians spend a lot of time plotting and scheming ways to get teens in the door. It is sort of a “develop the programs and they will come” mentality. That is nice, but let’s be honest. What we really dream is having our teen spaces be hangout places; spaces teens feel comfortable spending free time. The main way to make this dream a reality is to build a sense of community within your teen department. There are several ways to jump-start the process:

1. Create a Welcoming Space

The first step is to create a place in which teens will want to gather. Often, our library buildings are older and were not created with specific teen spaces in mind, so spaces have been carved out of nooks, corners, and crannies. If you have a teen specific space, Hooray! It should be easy to make your department teen friendly. If not, here are two tips to help make your space appealing to teens: Make sure teens can be a little loud, without disturbing other patrons and make sure teens have a feeling of privacy. Notice I said Feeling of privacy, not complete privacy. While teens need to feel comfortable enough to relax, it is probably unwise to give them a closed off corridor far away from any adult eyes.

2. Build on Existing Communities

The simplest and quickest way to develop community is to build onto an existing community! Several YA authors and books have sparked interest groups that have developed into powerhouse communities. Though there are many such communities, two in particular are Nerdfighteria‘ ‘ and the Harry Potter Alliance. Nerdfighteria sprung up around the YouTube vlog of John Green (2006 recipient of the Michael L. Printz Award and author of Looking for Alaska and other best-selling titles) and his brother Hank Green. Nerdfighters are people who try to decrease “world suck” and increase awesome. ‘ The Harry Potter Alliance mission statement says they take “an outside-of-the-box approach to civic engagement by using parallels from the Harry Potter books to educate and mobilize young people across the world toward issues of literacy, equality, and human rights.” You can let teens know the library has meeting space available for their group, or, depending on your libraries policies, your TAG could recruit other teens to help start a chapter of HPA or other group.

3. Use your Teen Advisory Group

Another way to build a sense of community is to use your Teen Advisory Group. Of course, you should meet to develop programs and plans for world domination, but you can also meet just to hang out. Get your teens to bring a friend to a meeting. When the newcomers see how much fun everyone is having, they will want to be a part of the group too!

4. Create a Common Goal

Whether it is a reading challenge, a fundraising activity, an outreach plan, or even a fitness challenge, having a common goal is a great way to create a sense of belonging.

5. Give them a Voice and Listen

All of your planning and hard work will be for naught if the teens in your community don’t feel like they are being heard.

If you have tried everything and you still can’t Pay teens to linger in your fabulously designed department, Don’t Give Up! Keep trying different ideas to see what resonates with the teens in your area. My hope is that by creating a sense of community among the teens in our libraries, we will create a greater community for our cities and towns.

As always, I would love to hear what You are doing in your library. What things have worked for you? What has failed miserably, but you think would work for someone else?

Trading Spaces: Visiting Each Other’s Libraries

Gretchen came up with the idea of visiting Erin when we found out that our libraries (in southern Connecticut and southwestern Massachusetts respectively) are not terribly far from one another. We were looking for a cultural exchange: to see what was new and exciting in each other’s libraries and teen programs. It’s also just fun to meet Internet friends in real life. (Thanks for introducing us, YALSA and Twitter!) Here’s what we found.

Continue reading

Thinking Big About … Teen Advisory Boards and Library Programs

Have you ever planned and implemented a program for the young adults of your library only to have a handful of teens show up or worse, none at all? There is nothing more disheartening than to pour your time, expertise and heart into a program only to have it go thud. To paraphrase Mr. Burns, the poet not the Machiavellian owner of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, the best laid plans of mice and young adult librarians oft go awry. So what’s a librarian to do? One solution that has worked remarkably well at our library is to create a Teen Advisory Board (TAB).

A Teen Advisory Board is a win/win situation for you and your library. It incorporates your teens as direct stakeholders in their library, instilling a greater sense of pride and responsibility for the programming and collection, and by having a monthly meeting with your TAB, you are granted a direct link to the inner workings of the teenage mind while also fostering deeper relationships with your young adult patrons. Continue reading