When we plan programs for teens, how do we create programs that will teach them something useful, but still fun and exciting? We can search the web, ask our colleagues for ideas, and look in old library school textbooks, but, ultimately, our journey begins with the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents.

When we look closely at the 40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents, the general framework focuses on the external and internal assets that can be found in a teen’s environment, which helps them develop. According to the Search Institute:

“The 40 Developmental Assets follow “building blocks of healthy development—known as Developmental Assets—that help young children grow up healthy, caring, and responsible”

What’s great about these developmental assets is that we already offer programs that support one or more of these assets.  Although we can’t hit every single asset (much to our chagrin), we can cover many of these building blocks by creating programs that ensure our teens are getting the support, encouragement, and opportunity to grow and learn in the library; by incorporating several developmental assets within our programs, we can help teens discover new things, which will inspire and entice them to come into the library with their friends to learn more. If we want to lure new teens, and current teens, I highly recommend introducing these programs during the annual summer reading program.

The best part of summer reading programs are that they are themed; it definitely makes programming a little easier, or challenging, depending on the theme, but it forces us to get creative with how we craft and present our programs. As teen librarians, we always have to be on our feet so why not plan our summer reading programs around lessons that revolve around life skills using ideas such zombies, crafts, food, and robots. Here are a couple of programs that I have been able to implement, which utilize several of the 40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents to teach basic life skills:

Making a Difference @ Your Library Teen Summer Reading Program

Focus: Giving back to the community

Developmental Asset(s): Support, Empowerment, Constructive Use of Time, Positive Values, Social Competencies, and Positive Identity

  1. SRP Closing Party & Care Packages
    1. Teens came to the library to celebrate the end of the summer reading program by making care packages for them men and women overseas; they also made greeting cards expressing their appreciation for all our military men and women.
  1. Making and Donating No Sew Blankets
    1. This program I cannot to credit for because my colleague learned about Project Linus and it was a hit with the teens; they spent 2.5 hours making blankets to provide a child in need with a security blanket.


Zombie vs. Ninjas Teen Summer Reading Program

Focus: Learning how to care/defend one’s self and work in teams

Developmental Asset(s): Support, Empowerment, Constructive Use of Time, and Positive Identity

  1. Zombie vs. Ninjas Food Fest
    1. Teens literally ate their way through this program by eating ramen and zombie brains and hearts out of Jello by strategically teaming up with other teens with very, very large appetites. It was hysterical and a lot of fun because we were able to motivate teens to read this summer since we had the chance to talk about the program and prizes.
  1. Zombie Combat Training
    1. Teens learned how to defend themselves from attackers with the help a self-defense instructor. This program did require a waiver since it was a physical activity, but teens enjoyed the program (especially the young ladies) since some of them were going off to college.

Groundbreaking Reads Teen Summer Reading Program

Focus: Getting ready for college and adulthood

Developmental Asset(s): Support, Empowerment, Constructive Use of Time, and Social Competence

  1. Sewing for Survival
    1. Teens continued to practice their sewing skills while making a super cute doll with the help of local artist, Liane Shih. This program allowed teens to have fun in an incredibly constructive way where they learned different types of stitches and techniques.
  1. Cooking for Survival
    1. Teens learned how to make nutritious meals using items they can buy at the grocery store and make in their dorms/apartments using a microwave or rice cooker. Teens really, really loved the idea of making staples such as burritos, pasta, and other dishes so they wouldn’t have to rely on sodium-laden foods that were cheap and low in nutritional value.
  1. Wilderness Survival Training
    1. Teens must work in groups to build a tent, or shelter, without any instructions or help from staff, make a proper first aid kit, and cooking with a toaster oven. After setting up each tent, we made basic first aid kits, which teens got take home with a list of supplies.

Spark a Reaction Teen Summer Reading Program

Focus: STEM and teamwork

Developmental Asset(s): Support, Empowerment, Constructive Use of Time, and Social Competence

  1. Robot Building Workshop
    1. Teens had to team up and build a robot using a pre-fabricated kit and tools. This program took almost 2.5 for teens since they had to work together to make a robot (we had several options) and the results were awesome!
  1. Food Science
    1. Teens came together to make food of all kinds (chewing gum, chocolate candies, gummy candies, and ice cream) with the help of science kits from Mindware.com.  This program was a lot of fun because teens got enjoy the fruits of their labor and lots and lots of ice cream made from a ball.



  1. http://www.search-institute.org/content/40-developmental-assets-adolescents-ages-12-18

About Deborah Takahashi

Deborah Takahashi is a Senior Librarian for the Monterey Park Bruggemeyer Library. Deborah has been working with teens and children for seventeen years and loves every minute. Deborah is also the author of "Serving Teens with Mental Illness at the Library: A Practical Guide."

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