This year our library was selected as one of the recipients of the YALSA/Dollar General Summer Learning Resources Grant. We chose to use the awarded funds to provide “starter” books to incarcerated teens in our county’s juvenile detention center and to our local school district’s summer high school ESL program. By providing the students with a book up front, we were able to give them the tools necessary to spend a summer reading and improving their literacy skills.

This partnership was not a new one to us as we have worked with these groups in summer of 2018 as well, but this year was special because we were able to provide the kids with the tools to succeed right off the bat. In 2018, the students participated in our summer reading program by borrowing books from their teachers and counselors but this year we were so excited to give them their own book to keep as soon as they signed up.

Instead of buying a variety of books for the students to pick from, we bought each participating student a copy of Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X. We felt this book really represented the teenage experience well and that the students reading it would find it appealing as well. Our hope was that each child reading the same book would lead to lively discussion and team building in their group. This also provided another great outreach opportunity because our two teen librarians were able to go out to the sites, meet the students participating, and book talk one of their favorite books. Our ESL group had never read the book before but their teacher had. The class decided to swap out the group reading they had previously chosen for this one instead. At the detention center, several students had read the book before but enjoyed it so much they were happy to receive their own copy to keep. They even helped us make our book talk more appealing by commenting on how much they enjoyed reading it and pushed their classmates to give it a chance as well.

Overall, 32 students participated in just a few short weeks and read a total of 15,600 minutes which averaged to about eight hours per person. After completing their first five hours of reading, each student received another free book courtesy of our Friends of the Library group to keep as part of their completion prize. We heard very positive reviews about The Poet X from students and teachers. Money leftover from purchasing the book was then used to stock and replace books in the counselor’s library at the detention center.


Sarah Ward is the Teen Services Librarian at Denton Public Library – South Branch.

Juvenile Justice System Outreach in Missouri

The Missouri State Library is pleased to share with YALSA two programs that are impacting teens in the juvenile justice system in Missouri. The first program is Teen Zine implemented by the Kansas City Public Library.’ missouriTeen Zine is a teen-driven project to publish a magazine featuring writing and art submitted by Kansas City teenagers. In addition to the teens representing nearly all ten branches of the Kansas City Public Library, nine teens in juvenile justice facilities also had material selected for publication. The teen editors stated in the introduction to the section of materials from teens in the juvenile justice system: “The following art and writing is from teenagers who are currently in juvenile corrections facilities. We felt that it was important that their voices are heard. They are often underestimated and overlooked but they have powerful stories to tell.” Read More →

As librarians, one of our most basic goals is to get people reading. Here in Fresno County we have statistics thrown at us daily reminding us of what a challenge this basic goal can be. High school graduation rates? Some of the lowest in the state. Poverty levels? Some of the lowest in the country. And yes, we have more than your average number of teens incarcerated.

One place where incarcerated young men are sent is the Elkhorn Correctional Facility Boot Camp. The cadets there must embrace a traditional military lifestyle, including physical training, discipline and drill; but it also acts as a school, featuring stress education, leadership building courses, positive decision making and self-accountability. We also have a library there. Read More →