Back to School Booklist – Humor

So, the kids are going back to school. Or are already back in school. Down here in Mississippi, this is the fourth week of school! Middle school is hard. The adjustments, the transitions. A lot of turmoil. So what I’m saying is that I think our kids deserve a laugh. If you need a quick display idea or just something to hand a kid who’s dreading going to school on Tuesday, here’s a list of really hilarious middle grade:

The Ginny Davis books by Jennifer Holm (of Babymouse fame!). These are old enough that your middle school readers might not be familiar with them, and they’re great. Filled with photographs, journal entries, and looking like a scrapbook, this colorful series will grab a tween’s attention–and make them giggle, too.

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Photobooth Program

Planning programs that will appeal to 12-14 year olds is really, really hard for me. ‘ This is the age where kids start to get busy, where they start having to balance school and extracurriculars with other things: like library time. ‘ If I’m’ being totally honest, this is where I start losing them.

So this summer, my amazing staff came up with an incredible program that all of my teens loved–especially that middle school demographic: an in-library photo booth. ‘ If your tweens and teens are anything like mine, they’re glued to their smartphones with Instagram and Snapchat constantly open. ‘ This program just gave them an opportunity to have some fun with their photos. We asked them to tag their pictures with the hashtag we usually use for our library stuff, and then let them loose on these fun props:

IMG_0214 SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

It could not have been more fun! It was so simple–we made the props from paper and lollipop sticks, which you can get at any craft store. We didn’t have time to make a booth, so we just put up a crepe paper background. We printed out clip art, used scrapbook paper, and there were even some superhero masks that everyone loved. It was a hit beyond anything we could have imagined, and we’ll definitely be doing this one again (we laminated the props for easy reuse). ‘ The kids loved not only the fact that it was fun, but also the freedom that they had to personalize it and own their pictures the way they wanted to. I’ve been having a lot of success in programs for tweens that aren’t overscheduled, that allow them to enjoy some of the freedom that’s starting to come with their age.

Have you tried anything similar at your library?

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Our cross-poster from ALSC’ today is Ally Watkins (@aswatki1). Ally is a youth services librarian in Mississippi, and has worked with ages birth-18 for the last 5 years.

Tweens in the Summer

Most libraries, like my own, have a core group of kids know and love our programs and are super excited about libraries in general. ‘ But, especially in the summer, these kids are often accompanied by siblings in a group a bit more disconnected from library services: tweens. Tagging along with their siblings, tweens who are unfamiliar with our library programming often end up exposed to our summer offerings. What can we do to keep them coming back?

1)‘ Plan programming that interests everyone. Summer programming for teens in my library serves both middle school and high school students (we’re not large enough to divide it up). So we work hard to find programming ideas that will appeal to both age groups: crafts that older kids won’t find lame, cooking classes that 6-12th graders will all enjoy, a photobooth night where the kids can post to Instagram until they drop. We don’t have a lot of resources to work with, but if you’re not planning a program that will appeal to the wide swath of “teen” ages, you’re going to lose these kids. If your library is large enough to support separate middle school and high school programming, fantastic! Plan things that you know your middle schoolers love! Crafts! Minecraft! Book club! Ask them what they want to see and then provide it.

2)’ Talk to them about middle grade AND young adult. As soon as the kids in my town hit sixth grade, they want to books from the teen center where our YA collection is–on the other side of the library from juvenile fiction. And that’s fantastic! But I’ve had several conversations with some awesome middle schoolers about middle grade books, publisher’s age recommendations, and how I logistically can’t shelve MG in the teen center or double-buy titles. As soon as a 12-year-old sees the “Ages 10-14” note inside of a book, they give themselves permission to be in the children’s department again. ‘ Not only has this opened up more of the library’s collection for some of my younger readers, this is a great intro conversation for an ongoing readers’ advisory relationship!

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A Gaming Connection

“You play Minecraft at work?” Sometimes my friends get jealous, so I explain: “Yeah, I play Minecraft at work, but I’m usually running around the lab helping people, and there’s more to it than just playing the game – it’s about building community.” Playing Minecraft at the library is a way to get kids in the door and create connections. That I’m a fan of Minecraft outside of work serves as another layer of common ground.

I’ve been playing Minecraft in our computer lab with groups of kids and teens for about two years now. We’ve done a lot of different things with the game: free play, adventure maps, working together to survive, player vs. player battles, redstone circuits, pixel art.  At times we’ve played every other week, sometimes once a month, sometimes once over the summer. I’ve gotten to know my Minecraft kids pretty well. I know that they are creative and knowledgeable about the details of the game.  I know who loves to explore, who is a fearless monster fighter, who can give me a porkchop when my food meter is low, and who knows how to build a shelter where no zombie will ever find us. And they know me this way as well. They know I probably have a secret shelter hidden somewhere, that if they need a place to hide they can come in, and that my avatar is probably standing there doing nothing because I left myself logged in while I got up to help someone at their computer.

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Passive Programs for Tweens

The library I work in is on a very busy side of town. Our tweens tend to become very involved in after school activities and homework during the school year. While they still use the library, they tend to be here for tutoring, homework help, or just running in quickly to grab a book. Sometimes our programming for tweens can be hit or miss. But one thing that has become a popular hit with our school age group are passive programs.’ We put out passive programs several times a year and these are great for tweens on the go who only have a few minutes to spend with a program. A few of our recent ideas:

I SPY HOUSE

This has become a holiday tradition for both Halloween and Christmas. Many years ago the library received a Madeline dollhouse that my staff transform into a large I Spy House. The interior changes every year with new items to find. Sometimes it’s a list of items, sometimes it’s a puzzle with rhyming text, but no matter what the tweens love searching for all the times and seeing how fast they can find everything. Here’s a peek at what our Halloween house looks like this year:

I Spy House

‘ SCAVENGER HUNTS

Our tweens love scavenger hunts. They would do them all day if we had enough! We tie scavenger hunts into a lot of our programs because of their popularity. I’ve used them for our Hobbit Birthday celebration (find the hidden Hobbits around the library) or to kick off summer reading program (find the pyramids using various clues). Continue reading

Teens, Tweens, and Technology – What Are You Doing?

They’re in our libraries, on our computers.

But what, specifically, is the life of a tween or young teen like in this digital age? What are the particular challenges and opportunities they face online? And how do libraries help them?

We will explore these questions at the 2012 Presidents’ Program at ALA in Anaheim. It will be a joint affair between ALSC and YALSA. Michelle Poris (of Smartypants) and Stephen Abrams will be talking about tweens and young teens, exploring their use of technology, and asking the question “What should libraries be doing?”

But the real point of this post: what are YOU doing? Continue reading

YA Lit Symposium: Looking for Diversity? Start with Your Own Teens

In this session, Pam Spencer Holley presented lists that she and co-author Julie Bartel (who was unable to attend) compiled for their book YALSA Annotated Book Lists for Every Teen Reader. Realizing that one of the biggest problems librarians have is finding the right books for a wide variety of teen readers, they looked to the YALSA-BK discussion list, reading through six years of archives and mining it for categories based on regularly asked questions.’  Bartel and Holley used recommendations offered by others on the listserv, adding newer titles if needed, and also winnowing down when their lists grew too large.

Each attendee was given a long list of recommendations in twelve categories, and Holley spoke briefly of every title listed, beginning each category by discussing the questions that prompted it.’  Some of the categories included were: Continue reading

The Trouble with Tweens

I love the tweens (10-12 year olds) who frequent our library after school. They are enthusiastic and generally well behaved, and I thoroughly enjoy some of the philosophical yet short attention span conversations I have with many of them.

However, they are not yet teens and shouldn’t really be included in teen programs or allowed to hang out on the teen floor. Many of them are not mature enough to be part of the conversations that take place in our No Boys Allowed Club, watch PG 13 movies (that their parents often object to), or discuss novels of the Ellen Hopkins variety. We also have programs for school aged kids (6-12) in the children’s department. Of course, the tweens don’t want to attend those programs because they feel they are far too cool for them. But alternatively if they attend teen programs, the older teens (15-17) feel like their time has been taken over by little kids and it is no longer a teen program.

So how do we solve this problem? I initially decided that they can only come to a teen program if they have a teen card, but that is problematic because of the 10 and 11 year olds whose parents have given consent for a teen card because their child has read EVERYTHING in the children’s section. Or perhaps because they want to sign out video games or graphic novels (which they can’t do with a children’s card).

My new plan is to offer a tween club once a month with teen-ish activities (crafts, Wii, movies etc) and let 10-12 year olds attend. We have the first club scheduled for March 17, and this could potentially be a hit … but it may also fall flat on its face. I have a hunch that nine year olds may try to crash the party this time!

Do many of you face tween troubles at your library as well and if so, do you have any great solutions?

Tales from the Land of Teeny Boppers

I’d imagine that for most librarians, the thought of several thousand screaming middle schoolers is more a nightmare than a dream come true. But for pop idols Jesse McCartney and Jordin Sparks, each hysterical 12 year-old is the bread and butter of their professional life. Such is the land of teeny boppers, a cultural and marketing phenomenon of pop music, fashion, and celebrity aimed at adolescent girls. Continue reading