YALSA’s website states that Teen Read Week 2011 will be celebrated at thousands of public and school libraries, classrooms, and bookstores across the country. ‘ As Kool and the Gang might sing…YAHOO! Let’s all celebrate and have a good time!

There's a party goin' on right here!Unfortunately, when adults think about teens and parties, it often involves a mental connection to negative teen behaviors. ‘ Providing a safe and positive event for teens to interact socially can be challenging, but extremely worthwhile for teens and also the community that surrounds them.

This week, the library system I work for hosted its second annual Teen Read Week Lock-in, and over 120 students joined us for a massive celebration with games, dancing, face painting, scavenger hunts, crafts, and prizes. Across my social networks, I’ve seen hundreds of posts from other libraries about their Teen Read Week celebrations. These included DJ’s, concerts, read-a-thons, carnivals, costume parties, anime & movie showings, and so much more. ‘ Many of these events have been planned months and years ahead of time, and I am consistently amazed at the level of creativity & expertise of my colleagues.

A short disclaimer: I am not an expert party planner, but I’ve helped my library system with quite a few major events.’  That said- here’s my short list of general “library party” hosting tips that have served me well.

1 ) Plan for more than you need.’  Always have extra activities, and extra supplies. It is better to have too much than not enough!

2 ) Be flexible. I recall planning an event where the teens threw out the activities I prepared because they wanted to play “Duck-duck goose”. As long as it’s safe, why not let them play?

3 ) Keep it simple, sweetie. ‘ If planning an activity gets too complex, you might want to reevaluate, or postpone it and save yourself a ton of stress. Inevitably something is going to go wrong, and the more “things” there are, the more’ things that could go wrong. I constantly have to tell myself this – creativity can get carried away and I have to remind myself to save the super complex activities for a smaller group, or stretch them in to several less complicated sessions.

Teens reading at the lock in.4 ) Allow some areas for downtime – sometimes party goers can become overstimulated or may just want to hang out and talk with their friends, watch a movie, or read.

5 ) Give yourself plenty of set up time.

6 ) Establish ground rules up front & right away (with teen input if possible).

7 ) If you feed them, they will come. ‘ Have you ever been to a party where there was nothing to eat or drink?

8 ) ‘ Stack interaction – ‘ don’t forget to incorporate teen literacy somehow. ‘ The focus can get lost in the party atmosphere, but with a bit of creativity even a game of duck-duck goose can become a gateway to talk about reading.

If you have additional tips please share them & party on!

Sarah Russo,’ Teen Read Week 2011 committee’ member

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