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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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:
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?
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.
Summer reading is in full swing at my library and my tweens are reading furiously. The middle grade (MG) is flying off the shelves! ‘ Here are a few books that my kids cannot get enough of:
How They Choked: Failures, Flops, and Flaws of the Awfully Famous’ by Georgia Bragg
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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 â€œteenâ€ 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 â€œAges 10-14â€ 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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Tweens are always a hard audience to reach at my library. They are so busy and the library often ends up being a quick stop for our tweens. We wanted to make sure we offered programs for our school age patrons and we thought the best way to reach them would be to offer programming at multiple times to try and accommodate their busy schedules.
After brainstorming with my staff, we decided we had two audiences we wanted to reach-school age patrons and our ever growing home school population. So we came up with the idea to offer two programs that would repeat each month. We offer one program on a Saturday morning and another on the fourth’ Friday afternoon of the month. So far we’ve done a Crafternoon, old fashioned game day, and a sewing program based around the book’ Extra Yarn. This gives patrons two opportunities to attend our programs and we’re reaching a different audience need with each program while targeting the tween school age population that we want to bring into the library.
We don’t advertise the weekday afternoon program as’ just for home schoolers, but we know that’s a big part of our audience for those programs. And the public schools will often have an early dismissal on the afternoons of our programs, so we’re able to reach a wider audience.
So far it’s been a popular idea. Our patrons have appreciated having more options of times to attend a program and our home school patron base is excited that we are offering a program that they can attend with the whole family. We’re eager to keep this plan going in the Fall and continue to bring programming that offers something for our tweens.
Does your library offer a creative time slot to reach tweens or multiple programming opportunities to reach’ tweens? I’d love to know how other libraries are running programs for school age patrons!
Are you interested in reading more tween-related posts?’ The’ YALSA Blog‘ and the’ ALSC Blog‘ both offer information of interest to librarians who work with tweens.‘
Maryann Macdonald, author of the World War II-era novel-in-verse and 2014 Bluebonnet nominee Odette’s Secrets, will speak at USBBY’s program at the 2014 Midwinter Meeting. The event will be held Friday, January 24th at 8:00 p.m. in the Howe Room at Loew’s Hotel.
Macdonald’s historical novel is a fictionalization on the real experiences of Odette Meyers, a Parisian girl of Jewish descent who is sent into the countryside to hide with a Catholic family during the Nazi occupation. Kirkus, which gave the book a starred review, described it as “an ideal Holocaust introduction for readers unready for death-camp scenes.â€ Read More →
â€œYou play Minecraft at work?â€ Sometimes my friends get jealous, so I explain: â€œYeah, 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.â€ 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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Working with tweens can be fun and also frustrating. My branch will have a large after school crowd of tweens but they’re not at the library to attend a program or hang out. Instead they are at the library to meet with a tutor, work on homework, or grab a book quickly before they rush off to their extracurricular activities. No matter how much we advertise programs to this age group, our attendance can sometimes be low. Or at least it feels low when we’ve put a lot of effort into planning a program that we hope will be a big success.
It’s hard to get caught up in numbers and statistics when it comes to programming. It’s also hard not to compare programs with each other. Sometimes I think about how we can get a group of 30 or more toddlers for storytime but I’m lucky if I can get a few tweens for a program.
But I can’t get caught up in measuring program success by numbers. Instead I focus on the stories. Like the middle schooler who came to every single Hunger Games program we provided last year, won the movie tickets in the giveaway, and came to the library this year and said “thank you so much for having those programs about The Hunger Games! They were my favorite and I met my best friend-and we’re still friends today and we met at the library.”
Or the tween who attended a recent program and was excited to win a set of books she hadn’t read yet.
Or the tween who gets excited to meet someone else who shares their interests when they thought’ they were the only one who liked Doctor Who, or Origami Yoda, or Cupcake Club.
When I feel down about tween programs and wonder what we could do better to reach this age group, I remind myself of all that we have provided for tweens and that we are successful. We are providing a place for tweens to come, meet other tweens, and participate in a program just for them-and that’s a success.
Are you interested in reading more tween-related posts?’ The YALSA Blog and the ALSC Blog both offer information of interest to librarians who work with tweens.‘
DeSTEMber is sponsored by Girlstart, an organization whose mission involves empowering girls to continue STEM studies, an ambitious goal considering the White House estimates only a mere 24% of scientists and engineers are women. If you’re not particularly science-oriented, promoting STEM can seem daunting, bit Girlstart’s associated website provides a wealth of programming ideas, many in online modules, as well as an archive of DeSTEMber content from 2012. There are synchronous guest lectures planned from many top-flight science centers and zoos around the country as well, so all you have to do is dial in.
Ways to connect with DeSTEMber 2013 from Girlstart:
1. Join Girlstart’s exclusive ‘Girlstart for Educators’ Google+ community‘ to receive our DeSTEMber activities before we release them to the public.
2. Request to get your classroom involved to participate live with virtual guest speakers here.
3. Download State and National Standards aligned DeSTEMber calendar here: 2012 and 2013.
4. Follow #deSTEMber to share your classroom photos on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
5. Click here for DeSTEMber 2012!
The YALSAblog will join in DeSTEMber throughout the month, sharing exceptional STEM programming and resources for teens and tweens. And Kelly Czarnecki will be highlighting a range of Learning Labs supported by the Macarthur Foundation, and your imagination is bound to be sparked by these spaces and programs in museums and libraries across the country. We hope this constructivist movement will provide a nice antidote to the consumerism of the season.
by author Jonathan Friesen
I awoke from my nap to this sight: My son, eight-years old, standing on the deck. I saw him through my bedroom window, and watched as he stared up at the sky.
He began to conduct. With large flourishes, that kid swept his arms to and fro, and the rain fell, soft at first and then harder and harder as he gestured with more drama. He was soaked, and he was in his glory. Finally, the rain slowed, and the wind died. He held his hands above his head for a good half minute, silencing the last drop. My son turned, paused and turned back, waving at the clouds, thanking the One who for five minutes gave him control of the sky.
He has absolutely no interest in dystopians.
My eight-year old stares with eyes of wonder at the everyday of life. Sudden storms, the new kittens, the old oak. He shrugs off the hundreds of controls placed on his very regulated existence: get up at seven, gather the chicken eggs, don a fresh shirt, etc. The rules and regulations that order his young world don’t bother him in the least. Read More →