Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Wordless Wednesday: Books you take with you, always

You never outgrow some childhood favorites . . . even if they are a bear of very little brain

TPIB: Follow the evidence

You don’t always have to put on a big interactive mystery theater production to have a mystery themed program (although those are fun), you can do some mini CSI type activities to have a mystery program.  There is a lot less time and money involved in set up, making it ideal for the school year.  You can also do these activities as part of a lead up to a larger mystery program.

What’s Missing?
The gift of observation is one of the most important skills a crime scene investigator has.  They have to be able to find the clues.  Did you know that witnesses have a hard time when interviewed because we all typically don’t have very good observation skills.  In fact, if investigators interview a variety of witnesses they usually get very different information.  This is an activity designed to test observation skills.

Set up a table with 20 small items and cover with a sheet.  Remove the sheet and give teens about 1 minute to study the “scene”.  Then recover.  Ask teens to list as many items as they can recall.  Then, remove 1 items and give teens another peek.  Can they figure out what item(s) you removed?

Interview the Witness
At the beginning of the program, have a couple of pre-selected staff members come in and give you a message.  Have them pretend to get into an argument.  After they leave, have teens split up into groups of 3 or 4 and interview each other about what they saw.  They need to ask the basics:  What happened?  What did they look like?  What were they wearing?  Then, have the original actors come back in and determine how the teens did as witnesses.

Discover the Message
You can make invisible ink using baking soda or lemon juice.  You can also have teens try and discover the message on notes by having them do pencil rubbings on a pad of paper to see if they can determine what was written on the last sheet of paper.

The Usual Suspects: A line up activity
Gather together 4 or more similar looking outfits (borrow from staff or purchase at a thrift store).  Have 4 staff members, or teen volunteers, that look similar enough to cause confusion dress up in said outfit and remain hidden until you do this activity.  At some point during your program, have the “suspect” run through the room – they could do something like “steal” a planted purse if you would like.  Then, have all the volunteers line up and see if teens can correctly identify which one was the suspect.

Prints, Prints and More Prints

CSI involves the collection and study of fingerprints.  You can do this using cocoa powder and clear book tape.  You can also cut strips of paper and have teens fingerprint each other and compare fingerprints.  Here is a good outline of a fingerprinting activity.

You can also do a foot printing activity.  Make footprints of a variety of shoes on individual sheets of paper.  Place a number on the back of the print.  Cut out and laminate.  Put a letter label on each of the shoes.  Have teens see if they can match the correct shoe print to its corresponding shoe.  There are links to more fingerprint and footprint activities at the end of this post.

Who wrote the note?
Have each participant write the same single phrase on identical pieces of paper.  Give each teen a number and have them write their number very small on the back bottom right hand corner.  Fold them all up and randomly draw out 1 of the notes.  Now have teens collect handwriting samples using a completely different phrase and see if they can figure out who wrote the note.

Ask an Expert
I had a member of our local police force come in for the first 20 minutes of my program.  He talked about some of the cases he had been involved in, showed some of the actual tools that they used, and talked about how real life crime solving compared to what we see on TV.  The number one lesson we learned, processing the evidence takes a lot longer than you see on tv.

If you have an Ask the Expert part of your program, each additional activity would take approximately 10 to 15 minutes each so you would have somewhere between an hour to an hour and a half CSI themed program.
More fun activities . . .
Printable spot the difference puzzles
Teeth impressions
More resources
The Science Spot (excellent resource)

Online mysteries to solve

Forensic Science (a good collection of links)
Want a pre-made flyer?  Check the TLT on Facebook photo albums.  There are posters, signs and flyers available for download.

TPIB: Pageturners! Save my spot!

True confessions of a bad librarian: I never have a bookmark handy.  That’s right, I am one of those people who puts a book down on the stand open to the page I left at.  Apparently that is hard on the spine.  Um, at least I don’t do the dog ear thing . . . right?  But there are a lot of great ways you can make bookmarks and it would make a great tween/teen program.  Do this as a stand alone program with a lot of bookmark options or as part of a book discussion group.  This will help protect those book discussion group books from people like me!
Book Thongs 

Using a variety of beads and thin hemp cord, you can can create book thongs.  Simply put beads on each end of the cord.  Tie off each end so the beads don’t slide off or up and down the length of the cord.  You can watch the YouTube video for directions.  Or here are written instructions.

This is a great craft to do as a bookmark program or as part of a beading program.  Flat ribbon or skinny waxed cord works best.

Monster Bookmark Corners

These are super cute.  And a great way to hold your page.  You could do a bunch of variations on this, too:  Zombify them.  Make robots.

This is a great way to use leftover paper from the craft closet.  I would offer a variety of scrapbooking papers in a wide variety of designs and colors.  Also, buy a couple of different size circle punches to make the eyes and a triangle paper punch for the teeth.  Instructions
Paint Strip Bookmarks 
Ask your local department store for paint example strips.  The genius of the paint strip is that they are already pre-cut to the perfect size and shape.  No cutting paper for you – yeah! You can do a variety of things with these. You can stamp on them (as seen to the right).  But you don’t have to stop there: you can decoupage them, cover them with words or word stickers, and so much more.  Then, punch a hole, add a grommet and some string.  Easy yet a way to promote creativity and self expression.

Paper Clip Bookmarks 

Buy large size
paperclips and a wide variety of foam shapes and stickers.  You can also use a variety of scrapbooking supplies for this project.  You want to use something strong and sturdy for the top so regular paper won’t do.  At a minimum, you can put stickers or decorations on thin pieces of cardboard and glue.  This is a great way to re-use old cereal boxes and turn it into a recycled craft.  You could also have teens make Fimo beads using clay to put at the top.  Or decoupage old Scrabble tiles and glue them on.  Again, the creativity is limitless on this.
Let Teens be the Stars – and the Designers 
Using a digital camera, some software editing tools and a printer – teens can be the star of their own bookmarks.

You can give teens free reign or fun challenges:
All your pictures have to involve nature;
Can you spell out the word READ?;
Highlight your favorite genre or title;
Involve 3 of your friends
You can do this as a series of programs or a one-time event.  Be sure to schedule enough time to take pictures, work with the photo editing software and print.  Or you could do it as an online contest.  Either way, make sure you get digital copies of the bookmarks to save for future use and to share electronically.
Be sure and print the actual bookmarks on a thicker card stock.  Once you print the final bookmarks you will have to cut them to size.  You can leave them as is or again make grommet holes and add string.  Laminate if you have the tools and the desire.  This is also a great way to get bookmarks to share in your library at a less expensive cost.  And teens love to see the stuff they create around the library.
These bookmarks were made using an iPhone and the apps: Hipstamatic, Wordfoto, and Photoshake.  Be sure to check out my previous post on iPhone apps for some great ways to make these bookmarks.
Photo Booth Bookmarks
Also, you can take a series of quick photos and make photo booth looking bookmarks.  Just upload the pictures and place them in your photo editing software and create a border.  There is, of course, a great iPhone app that will do this automatically: Mobile Photo Booth.  This would be a great drop in activity in your teen area.  Designate a time for teens to come in and visit your “photo booth”.  If you can, have some fun paper sheet contests and a prize drawing box set up in the teen area at the same time.  Have teens do their 4 poses in your “photo booth” alone or with friends.  You can print them there or have teens come in at a later time to pick them up.  For Halloween you can have teens come in their costumes or have a variety of thrift store items available and challenge them to come up with a creative costume on the spot for the pictures.  Take pictures of them holding their favorite book!  Don’t limit yourself, this is a great opportunity for creativity.
And just a few more bookmark ideas . . .

Guest Blogger of the Day: Val, a slowly developing heart for reading

Val came into my life 6 years ago.  She was a teen member of my church, and an excellent baby sitter.  Val graduated high school in May, and I couldn’t have been prouder.  She was active in 4-H member and at one time marching band.  She has worked for the Boys and Girls Club as a mentor to younger children.  Despite how amazing she is, she has not always been an avid reader.  One time I finally convinced her to read If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson.  I think this is one of the most beautifully written books that captures the heart of a tragic love store while interweaving some beautiful poetry into the tale.  Val was shocked at home much she loved this book.  Sometimes you match the right book with the right reader and magic happens.  This is Val’s tale in her own words . . .

Val has even starred in one of my RA posters
Going through high school there was always that book assignment to read or that paper to write that no one really wanted to have anything to do with. Being a typical teen I struggled; Do I actually read or do I simply Sparknote the material? As good as a reference as Sparknote’s can truly be, I’ve learned reading the material is truly better.
Learning this lesson has came from knowing not only a good friend of mine but a local librarian. From the very beginning of high school the phrase “why don’t you just read?” came across in multiple conversations. It wasn’t until my junior and senior year in high school I finally started to listen to her. From when I first went to her  and said “find me a book for this project,” her help was key to finding my love for reading.
Once, I realized that reading wasn’t that bad and that all I just needed was the right book my English classes were no longer a problem anymore. Just simply reading one chapter during spare time made it so I soon stopped failing quizzes, made writing papers much easier and less time consuming, and the struggle to answer a simple question about the material much more easy. Not only did the work acquainted with my material become more simple but my grammar and writing skills increased tremendously. Suddenly my “C” in English became an “A” all because I listened to my librarian, decided to actually read and use the services my local library offers.

If you come softly
as the wind within the trees.
You may hear what I hear.
See what sorrow sees.
If you come slightly
as threading dew,
I will take you gladly,
nor ask more of you.
      Audre Lorde (1934-1992)

Val sent me this text right after she finished reading If You Come Softly:  “Kar thank you for making me read the book if you come softly it was a great book and made me cry.”  The right book made all the difference.

Please note: this is a new feature and if you or one of your teens would like to make a guest blog post, please e-mail me at kjensenmls@yahoo.com.  Just e-mail me a copy of your story, some basic bio information, a head shot and any artwork if you so desire.

What My Tweener is Learning About Libraries

Today my daughter officially becomes a Tween.  She is in that neverland void between children’s services and teen services that a lot of libraries are still trying to figure out.  She grew up going to storytimes and library programs.  And of course has a librarian for a mother – I am sure, for the record, that she would tell you an awesome one!  She does not necessarily love reading like I would have wanted her to, but she doesn’t hate it either – but she does embrace the value of libraries.  She is currently reading the Clementine books and The Wizard of Oz (I count down the days when I can share my favorite teen titles with her).  And it is interesting for me to reflect on this day on what a life in libraries has taught this amazing child just entering into her tween years (and no, I am not in any way biased – what are you talking about, she really is amazing!)

Information is a Gift, I Don’t Know is Not an Answer
We spend a lot of time looking things up.  She recently asked me what those little nubs on the top of a Giraffe’s head are called (they are called ossicones for the record).  I told her I didn’t know and her response was, “well, when you get to work can you get a book and look it up for me?”  And she is always asking me to look things up for her on my phone.  I think a key message for libraries is reminding tweens and teens the value of information.  There is no reason for the answer to a question to be “I don’t know”.  Now, more than ever, young people have access to a wide variety of tools to really learn and explore and find answers.  As we sell ourselves as information specialist, we must really find ways to communicate this to our audience.

And yet, it is easy I think for tweens and teens to develop a certain complacency.  Because access to information is so readily available, it is easy to take it for granted.  How can we create environments that stimulate investigation?  How do we create opportunities to really learn how to find answers?

I like the idea of “Crave”.  We crave food.  We crave friendship.  I want libraries to help instill in today’s tweens and teens a craving for information: this idea that you can learn more, find more, and do more @ your library.  Find opportunities, like Scavenger Hunt and online quizzes, to help tweens and teens discover the joy and fun in discovery.

Technology is a Tool and an Opportunity
When I had to quit my job to relocate my family, my daughter saw that I didn’t have to give up who I was or what I loved.  She saw me take the skills I had an be resourceful and still find ways to connect with my professional community (ala this blog); to still participate in something I feel passionate about; and to find ways to expand who I am, what I do and how I do it.  More than any other time in history, the world is an open place and you can take and create for yourself a variety of opportunities.  So how can we communicate this message to our audience?

Tween and teens need to know that the Internet is more than social media sites and video games.  It is a portal to opportunity.  They can create, communicate, inspire, network and more.  (Of course they must do so safely).  And computers are more than just the Internet.  They are amazing tools to create school projects, art work, diaries, poetry, and more.

More and more I think it is important for technology to be a huge part of teen programming in libraries.  Have a learning lab where teens learn basic technology tools.  VOYA had a great article about some resources teens can use outside of slide shows.  There are also good print tools available like Web Design for Teens and Blogging for Teens.  Make it a part of your daily routine to learn about new technology tools and sites that you can incorporate into programming and share with your teens.

Everything is Bigger than You Ever Imagined
If we are doing our jobs right, kids today learning that the world is bigger than what they see, that they have more opportunities than they could imagine, and they can be do and be more than ever.

Every time my daughter opens a book, she meets a new friend.  She learns about a life that is different then her own.  She learns to think and hope and dream.  She learn compassion and resilience.  She learns to open her mind and her heart.  Every book read is an opportunity to learn and grow and experience, but in a safe environment.  Reading is an essential life skill, but it is also an amazing opportunity.

And if we are doing our jobs right, our kids are learning that they can come to this all in a safe place called a library.  Here they can explore who we are, what we believe, and how we want to live.  They are learning that they can ask questions and find answers.  They are learning that they can get new skills True story: my husband checked out a book from the library and taught himself how to juggle.  Probably not a useful skill, but fun.  And imagine if every child lived in a home where they saw a parent do something like that.  It would really communicate the message that lifelong learning is fun and easy at your public library. 

The other day my daughter said when she went to college she wanted to learn French.  My response: you really don’t have to wait until college.  We can go to the library and start learning it today!

What is Our Message?
So here’s what I am learning from my daughter:  if we get the right message to our audience, they will embrace it.  She has received the message because we live it.  She has heard it again and again and again.  And she has seen it in action.

So let’s take the message to our teens:  @ Your library you can be more, do more, see more . . . But we can’t just tell them, we have to show them.  Give them opportunities to experience the truth of this message.  Have tech learning labs, scavenger hunts, creative activities, and more.  Fight for libraries in your community and fight for teens in your libraries.  Learn about the 40 developmental assets and incorporate them into your programming.

And let me just take this moment to thank you all for bringing the message to my daughter.  Because of the hard work of librarians everywhere, my daughter gets to be more, do more and see more . . . and that is a powerful gift.

TPIB: It’s a Dead Man’s Party

Last year a combination of The Walking Dead and Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry (best. zombie book. ever.) made me put together a  zombie themed program.  The undead are quite popular – and are likely to continue to be so with the upcoming movie releases of World War Z and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  And people everywhere are talking about what they would do in the event of a zombie apocalypse.  I would be content if they would just let me hole up in my house and read, but then again – all that reading has probably given me big brains so I am probably ripe for zombie eating.

But in the event of a ZA, how will you help your teens survive?
Zombie Survival 101
Everyone knows the only way you can fell a zombie is to get them in the head.  So get out your Nerf guns and bows and arrows and get some target practice on.  You can even download and print zombie themed targets online.
In fact, I put together a variety of survival activities for my Hunger Games program so you may want to visit that post for some ideas.
Let the Zombie Games Begin
Eyeball Miniature Golf: Buy some of these wicked cool floating eye balls and set up a mini golf course around your library after hours.  Books ends make great mini golf obstacles.  To double the fun, let your participants design obstacles for the course and then set up and play.
Severed Hand Toss:  Get a fake severed hand (really, please don’t use a real one) and play a version of hot potato.  Or ring toss.
Zombie Shuffle Relay Races: Think 3-legged races.  Or simply see who can come up with the best zombie shuffle.  Have a zombie shuffle fashion show (bonus points for totally awesome zombie wear).
Zombify Me
Use face paint and theater make-up and allow teens to make each other into zombies.  Have plenty of soap on hand!
Deconstruct t-shirts and add blood stains, teeth marks and hand prints.  Take old t-shirts and rip them, tear them, and cut them.  Stain them to make them look bloody and dirty.  No one makes it through a ZA looking pretty.
Fake Wounds: Use petroleum jelly and red food coloring to make fake blood.  Use gauze bandages and band aids to create fake looking zombie wounds.
‘Cause this is Thriller
Michael Jackson’s Thriller is perhaps the most famous zombie dance ever.  Spend time with your teens and this awesome youtube video learning how to do the dance.  See if you can get the local schools to let you come in and do the dance as a flash mob during lunch.  Great publicity for you zombie party.  Or have a zombie prom like these libraries did.
Zombie Crafts
No seriously people, if you have not done them yet this is a great time to make gocks.  Zombie gocks!
Make zombie silhouettes: You can use these to decoupage pictures frames or coffin shaped treasure boxes.  There are a lot of cool zombie silhouette ideas out there.
Zombify old Barbie dolls and GI Joes
Make zombie themed “motivational” posters.  Teens will have a great time coming up with pictures (since they are getting dressed up, they can be the subjects of the pics) and coming up with their own witty sayings.  Part of the fun of zombie culture is the zombie humor.
Fun examples at http://www.zombieapocalypseblog.com/2010/09/17/zombie-motivational-posters/ (not all safe for work or teens)
Make polymer clay zombie heads for jewelry charms.  Also, shrinky dinks.  You can use a toaster oven to bake.
And check out this cool book on making zombie felties
Sure it’s a stretch, but go for it anyway
Zombie buttons:  When searching for zombie crafts I came upon this wicked cool button that said “Zombies love a girl with brains”.  So we had a great time making our own zombie buttons.
And you know, should the zombie apocalypse happen – there’s a good chance you will be out in the open and not have a lot of time to prepare.  So you will have to use whatever is handy: stones!! Like I said, it’s a stretch – but seriously, I was inspired by these stone crafts.  So go ahead, gather some stones and decorate them (I like words, but color and design works just as well) and throw them at the nearest zombie. 
Zombie food
Bust out the old Halloween food feeling faves: Cold spaghetti = brains, Peeled grapes = eyeballs, Carrot sticks = severed fingers, Peach slices = skin
Wrap crescent rolls in a tube around cocktail weinies to make fingers.
Or you could make zombie cupcakes . . .
Zombie Crafts in Other Places
Don’t forget get to get them reading . . .

TPIB: Olympians Week

October 4th – 10th has been declared Olympian Week in celebration of the release of Son of Neptune, the next title by Rick Riordan.  You know what that means?  Toga party!
So get planning!  Walk over to the 200s and brush up on your Greek and Roman mythology.  And brush up on your toga wrapping.  Don’t know how to wrap a toga, here is a video that shows you 4 different ways to do it.  I did not know there was so much variety in toga wrapping.

In fact, that is a great first activity – a toga wrapping relay race.  Participants will have fun trying to get ready for the toga party as an opening activity.

Let the Games Begin!
If you have space (or nice weather), you can have a triathlon.  You could include activities like archery (Nerf has some equipment), a lightning bolt toss similar to a javelin throw (you can make a lightning bolt out of cardboard or foam and decorate), and a globe toss similar to a shot put throw (you can use little foam balls painted like a globe or beach balls).  Of course you could make up and substitute any other type of activity: bean bag tosses, obstacle courses, etc.  It would be pretty easy to come up with a mythological twist.  Again, depending on weather conditions, you can throw in some water wars to represent Poseidon.  And just for fun, throw in a rubber snake toss.

Hero Quest
Send your tweens and teens on a hero quest through the library, aka a scavenger hunt.  But this scavenger hunt will have some unique twists. 

Twist #1: The Achilles Heel
Before you begin each participant must pull an Achilles heel (a weakness) out of a hat.  You can add things like, they have to do the quest with one arm tied behind their back or one person has to be blindfolded and guided through the quest by another participant.

Twist #2: The Medusa Maze
Pick one participant to be Medusa and set them in an area where you know others will have to go to complete the quest.  As the participants make their way through this area, they have to make sure not to be touched by Medusa or they will be turned to stone (frozen).  Depending on how you want to play the game, they can either be eliminated or you can build a way in for them to be unfrozen.

Twist #3: The River Styx
As part of the Hero Quest, participants must find one of many coins you plant throughout the library and use it to pay you to cross the River Styx and complete the quest.

Image from http://faculty.musowls.org/sellers/2011/05/medusa_mythology_exam_results.html

Create Your Own Mythology
Greek and Roman mythology is full of a wide variety of characters that have been imagined and re-imagined.  Give your teens an opportunity to be creative and create their own mythological creatures, whether they be gods and goddesses or fierce creatures.  You can go simple, have them draw pictures and make up stories.  Or you can go big and have teens come in costume.
In an earlier post we talked about the Exquisite Corpse.  This is a fun way to have teens come up with a collaborative new mythological creature.  You divide your participants into groups of 3. Give each group a large piece of paper (really large) folded into 3 parts.  One person draws the head and then passes the paper to the next participant who draws the torso and then the final person draws the legs.  Since each participant doesn’t see what the previous has drawn, you come up with some pretty unique designs.

Get Crafty
Make laurel leaf crowns

Make a shield or a sword, and decorate

Turned to Stone: Medusa turns everything she sees to stone.  Give teens some rocks and have them imagine what they would look like if turned to stone.  Basically, they are making pet rocks of themselves.

Athena is the goddess of crafts.  She is often associated with pottery and weaving.  You can do weaving activities or pottery (using clay).  You could also throw things in here like jewelry making.

Mercury has wings on his feet.  Have a flip flop decorating crafts and give teens the opportunity to make their own unique foot wear.

Poseidon is the god of the sea.  You can make your own lava lamp or water globe.  I have made the water globes as crystal balls for a HP party and they work well and are fun.

Because of the mythology involved, you can give teens a wide variety of craft supplies (clay, paper bag or felt puppets, etc.) and let them make their own creatures.  This is a great way to clean out the craft scraps.  Or you can make them out of recycled materials.

Here are more craft ideas:
Mythological Sea Creature Crafts
Paper Modelz

Live Chess or Challenge
In a lot of mythology you often here of how the gods and goddesses sat in the heavens and moved the people around to put them into situations.  And on Survivor you see the teams competing in challenges where one part of the team tells another part of the team what to do.  For example, they will have to put together a huge puzzle but they can only put the pieces where their team mates tell them to.  This would make for a great Olympian challenge.  You could set it up us a large chessboard, or you can use the types of challenges you have seen on Survivor.  The main component has to be that one part of the team will function as the gods/goddesses and they will tell the other part of the team where to move or what to do to complete the challenge.

Name that God (or Goddess)
Greek and Roman mythology is ripe for a trivia contest!  So take your Jeopardy template or Family Feud template and adapt it to focus on mythological trivia.

Columns and Statues, oh my!
Bust out your Lego’s and have an ancient Greece column and statue building contest.  Or have an Oreo cookie stacking contest.  These are a ton of fun and would make a great variation on the columns theme.

Have you seen the game Hole in the Wall?  It always makes me think of Greek statues.  Put together some wacky poses and as a game, divide the teens into groups and time them to see who can get in the pose the quickest.

And don’t forget to put up your displays of read-alikes . . .
Wake County Public Libraries list
Tales Treehouse

Whatever activities you choose to do, have fun getting your Toga on!

Bootalk It! Developing a Booktalk Program to Network with Area Schools

What does every librarian love?  A captive audience!  You want to get into your schools, into the classrooms, and develop relationships with your teachers.  One of the best ways to do this is to develop a booktalking program.

In its most basic description, a booktalk is a short introduction – think commercial or movie trailer – for a book.  What you want to do is give just enough information about a book to tantalize teens and then leave them salivating for more!  If you have done a booktalk properly your audience will be on the edge of their seat asking, “what happens next?”  And your answer is always, “you have to read the book to find out!”

Stop here and make sure you know some booktalking basics:

A very basic intro from the state of Vermont

And don’t forget to look at the booktalking research:

Booktalks on Wikipedia (I know it’s evil, but it refers you to a lot of good resources)
A booktalking program can be an effective tool in your school/library relations toolbox.  What you want to do is develop relationships with teachers who will keep you coming back again and again into their classroom to introduce new books to their students.  It can be once a month, once a grading period, or at the very least before winter and summer breaks.  So you have to sell yourself to the teachers to get your foot in the door, and then you have to deliver the goods.
1.  Making Contact
Do some research and put together a really good introduction to your area teachers about booktalks.  Let them know what booktalks are, why they want to let you do them, how they support the curriculum, and how they encourage students to read.  Make it short, simple and visual: you are marketing a service to them.  An example 3-fold brochure follows . . .

I created this brochure over the years based upon my own MLS final project which focused on booktalking.  In addition, I gathered feedback from students and teachers over the years to help me sell the program.  Always remember to save positive feedback to use in future marketing materials. I have always found that teachers and students both respond favorably to booktalks and their feedback helps me sell the program.

Your basic selling points are this:  Teens find that reading is more enjoyable and are more likely to finish a book if it is a book they select for themselves, booktalks introduce teens to a wide variety of books and allow them to make those successful choices, and booktalks increase reading pleasure.

Booktalks = more reading success, more reading variety, and more reading enjoyment!

Plus, it will help move items in your library.  Thus, booktalks = increased circulation.

Booktalks are win, win!

Wait until the second or third week of school and send a letter of introduction and brochure to each Language Arts/English teacher and each school librarian.  Ask the school principals if you can have a few moments to speak at a teacher in service day and give some example booktalks.  Do everything you can to get your foot in the door, then wow them.

2.  Creating a Package

Start out by creating for yourself a basic building block of say 20 booktalks of the best teen books that will reach the greatest audience.  Be sure to write your booktalks, practice them, and keep them readily available.  As you read a book, create an electronic file (or an old fashioned index card if you would like) that gives a basic description of the book, the appropriate audience, and a “hook” for that book.  What is it that will help you sell this book to teens?  You want to include a wide variety of books and talking styles, including some Booktalk 2.0 styles (included below in Tech It Up).

Some basic booktalk rules to follow:

3.  Play to Your Strengths

Honestly, I am not a funny person  (well, not intentionally any way).  I can never even remember the punch line to a joke.  So I don’t try to do funny booktalks.  Teens would see right away that I am out of my element.  In order to sell a book, you have to be authentic.  Don’t try and sell a book you hate.  Don’t try and sell a book you know nothing about (really, you should read it).  And don’t try to be something that you’re not.  You want the teens to trust you because you are trying to get them to do something . . . so be authentic.  Trust is vital.

However, you need to be able to employ a wide variety of styles.  Booktalking expert Joni Bodart discusses the different types of booktalks as being character based, mood based, plot summary, or anecdotal.  Find out what motivates the story, and then figure out your hook.  From there, you can engage in a wide variety of booktalking styles and techniques.  There are other places that cover that topic well.  You need to know these names Joni Bodart (check out her books), Nancy Keane and Naomi Bates.  They will help you develop the tools you need to be a successful booktalker.

4.  Get Your Audience Involved

Remember, in the ideal scenario you will go to a teacher’s class and booktalk to each and every period.  This means that you can be entertaining each class for anywhere from 15 minutes up until the entire period, depending on what you and the teacher agree upon.  So you want to make it fun for the teens – get them involved.

Ask a question and get them talking.  For example, when booktalking No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman, ask them if they have read Where the Red Fern Grows and how they felt when the dogs died.

Take a portion of the book and make it into a short reader’s theater

Create a short news show or interview that ties into a book.

Believe it or not, a lot of the same techniques your children’s librarian employs for story hour can also be successfully used in a fun, interactive booktalk.  So make cards with words on them and ask teens to yell them out every time the you show them the card.  Ask teens to sing, dance, act, and get involved.  It doesn’t have to be you standing up in front of them. 
5.  Tech it Up (Booktalks 2.0)



In fact, it doesn’t always have to be you at all.  Today most classrooms have a computer and an overhead projector in them, so take advantage of this.  Download book trailers onto a flash drive and share them.  You can download a wide variety on YouTube or at various publishers sites, or visit Naomi Bates and use hers (she also teaches you how to make your own).
You can also create PowerPoints or basic images to share and give that “wow” factor.  I find these to be particularly useful when I want to booktalk a book that is never in on the shelf – this allows me to show them the cover.  In fact, I now almost always create a visual presentation to go with my booktalks.  The visual reinforces the verbal.  Plus, I can leave it behind in the classroom for the teacher and students.

Check out the August 2011 edition of VOYA, it has a good article on alternatives to the traditional slide show.  Scholastic also has some video booktalks you can use.  Multnomah County Libraries have a variety of Podcasts available online.  There are a lot of great tech options out there to tech up your booktalks.

6.  No Really, Get Teens Involved

Teachers are always looking for creative ways to help students explore literature and share what they have read, so get the students writing their own booktalks and creating their own book trailers.  You can share what they do in the classroom in a wide variety of ways in your library with the proper permissions and platforms, such as on a web page or social media page or display screens in your teen area.

7.  Make Their Trip to the Library Successful

I have always been amazed when visiting the classroom how students will write down titles and come up and ask you about them.  If you can, find a way to check titles out to the students at the end of the day. I have written down book barcodes and library card numbers and gone back to the library and checked them out.  But what if the teen doesn’t have a library card yet?  Chances are, they are going to come in to the library and ask about the book – but they won’t remember much.  So you need to make sure all public service staff know not only that you visited a school and booktalked, but what you booktalked.  Make sure all staff have a list of the books, a copy of the cover so they can know what it looked like, and a general book description (or a copy of the actual booktalk).  You can do this electronically or in print, or both.  Then, when a teen comes in and says, “this lady came to our library today and talked about this book set in the future where everyone has a job given to them”, the staff member can pull out the list and determine that it is The Giver by Lois Lowry.  Teens are satisfied, co-workers feel informed and everyone walks away having a successful library interaction.  That is always our number 1 goal.

Also, if you make slides you can print them out and put them on display in your teen area.  And if the books are in you can put them on display.  Whatever you do, you want to make sure they can check out the book (buy multiple copies!) or put them on hold.  There is nothing worse then coming into the library to ask for a book and there is no one there who knows what you are talking about. 

Also, don’t forget your school librarians! Take the information to them and introduce yourself.  Chances are some of the students will go looking for the books at their school library, so help the school librarian find them there if the school owns them.  We want teens to have successful library experiences, whether it be your public library or their school library. 

It Only Takes 1!

If you deal your cards correctly, you can establish a good repeat customer relationship with at least one teacher – and if you visit one teacher’s class room every month for 6 or 7 periods, well that is a lot of booktalks.  At one library I worked at I visited one particular teacher’s classroom every month for 5 years.  The great thing about this is that after a year, you have a really good backlog of booktalks to draw from the next year.  All you have to do is add the new books that you read.  And that teacher, she could be counted on to spread the word to other teachers who would occasionally take me up on my offer.  Best of all, it was amazing getting to know those students throughout the high school years.

So good luck to you as this new school year starts.  Now get booktalking!

Teen Program in a Box: Send Them Back to School with Style

Most of your teen patrons are now counting down the days they have left of summer.  And spending copious amounts of money on back to school clothes and school supplies.  Make sure you make the library one of their stops as you help them “Rock Your Locker”.

Lockers don’t have to be boring and drab cubicles of steel.  They can be an expression of self.  There are whole industries selling accessories to help teens spice up their lockers.  Locker Lookz is just one of them.

You can help teens create their own looks (after all, even with a wide variety of kits available, there are still only so many choices) and express themselves with a variety of fun activities.  All you need is to get together some fun materials and a ton (and I do mean a ton) of magnetic backings (both circles and tapes).

Basically, look at all your leftover craft supplies.  If it is flat and you can add a magnet, then it can be a locker craft.

Tin Bins
Collect old Altoid tins (or any closeable tin).  Teens can paint them and decorate them with stickers.  Put strong magnetic backs on and voila – you have a customized locker storage bin for notes, candies, and more.

Magnets Galore
You can make marble magnets or bottle cap magnets.  You can even take fake flowers and make them into magnets.  Each one is an opportunity for a teen to express themselves and make a locker with unique style.

For marble magnets, purchase clear, flat crafting stones at a local craft store.  Have a variety of scrapbook papers and old magazines available.  And use a strong but clear drying craft glue.  Teens will trace the stone on their image and cut it out.  Using the clear drying glue, glue the image to the flat side of the stone so they can see the image through the stone.  Then, glue a cardboard back onto the image.  Then glue on a magnetic circle.  Give it time to dry and then you have customized magnets for your locker.

For bottle cap magnets, collect a variety of bottle caps (or you can cheat and buy a kit).  You can glue an image or place stickers in the bottle caps.  Then fill with Amazing Goop clear drying acrylic and place a magnet on the back.

You can make your own magnetic poetry using word stickers and a roll of magnet tape.  You can also cut words out of magazines.

Message Boards
Teens can also make their own mini message boards or note pads to place in their lockers.  You can make message boards by decorating cork board tiles.  Or, decorate dry erase boards.  You can make a French style memo board using a strong piece of cardboard, a scrap piece of material, and ribbons.

Picture This
Don’t forget to include some picture frame fun.  You can take foam frames (or cardboard ones) and allow teens to decorate them.  Put magnets on the underside and they can hang them up in their lockers to frame their favorite pics or posters. 

Anyway you can make a picture frame that doesn’t involve glass – craft sticks, foam, cardboard, etc. – can be used to make a locker picture frame.

Locker Wall Paper
Ask a local design store or somewhere like Lowe’s or Home Depot if they will donate some wallpaper or wallpaper scraps.  Teens can cut strips of the wall paper and use the magnets to hold it in place and decorate the inside of their lockers.  If your budget allows you can purchase some.

My Initials Are . . .
Teens everywhere are decorating with their initials.  You can buy pads of initial paper and allow teens to decorate them and laminate.  Add some magnets and voila . . . An Ellison machine would help you accomplish this, too.

Locker Bling
Pull out your leftover cord and beads and make a locker charm.  Teens can hang them vertical or horizontally in their locker to create some locker bling.  You can also string acrylic beads and make mini chandeliers.

Other things you can do . . .
Make word bubbles for teens to place on their locker describing their mood.  This can be accomplished by designing a bunch of fun words on the computer and printing them.  Cut out, laminate and add a magnet.  Then, make a background that says today I am feeling . . .  Each day the teen can pick the word that described their day.  Or make a variety of smiley faces that express their mood.

Make photo collages

Make disco balls out of old cds and hang them from the top of your locker.  Simply bust up the old cds and glue them to a small foam craft ball. 

Some Other Sites with Ideas
Decorate Your Locker
Sparklife: Pimp My Locker
GirlyNation Locker Decorating Ideas
Klutz Decorate Your Locker book
Decorating Your School Locker
Make it For Your Locker

And here’s a tip for next year:  Go to the stores in late September and pick up a bunch of the clearance materials out there and save them for your program next year.

Flashback Fridays: Because We Never Really Grow Up

There is a tweener in my house collecting Smurfs.  I wonder what happened to all of mine, I had quite the collection of little blue men.  It turns out, all things old are new again.  Transformers.  Thundercats.  Smurfs.  Strawberry Shortcake.  My Little Pony.  And the other day, there were fluorescent yellow and orange and green clothes on the back to school racks.  Apparently that style is once again a go-go.

Flashback Fridays
Everywhere you look, we’re going retro.  The discussion even came up this week on the YALSA listserv – with some great program ideas.  Who knew that teens would want to get together and play with playdough?  Of course with Lego stores opening up all over those are definitely too cool, and lots of libraries are having lego clubs.  Have you seen some of those Lego sets, they are amazing?  A Lego building competition is a great teen programming idea.  So why not get teens together on a Friday afternoon, or a series of Friday afternoons, for Flashback Fridays.

Recently Marion Public Library held a retro video game night.  They played old Atari and Nintendo games.  There are classic game bundles for the Wii and other popular game systems, too.  You’ll want to brush up on your Frogger, Pac-Man and Donkey Kong skills.

You could also bust out some classic board games for a retro board game night.  Think Monopoly and Scrabble and Life.  Not Words With Friends (which is wicked fun), but an actual Scrabble board where teens sit down in the same room and play together.  Or you could go really old school and get your hands on Don’t Break the Ice, Cooties and Hungry Hungry Hippos.  Throw in some old fashioned checkers and Pick-Up Sticks. 

Actually, think of all the fun you can have playing picnic style games and relay races (if you have a large enough space) like sack races and 3 legged raced.  Throw in a good ring toss or bean bag toss.  Add a couple of hula hoops.

Invite teens to build a better Mouse Trap and create Slinky mazes.  Or see how large a domino train they can make before watching them all fall down.  The hands on fun potential is really quite limitless.  I think it would be wicked fun to have an after party and do this domino activity (think of it as a great way to read the shelves):

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pw5LlSKKG3M]

Don’t forget to show great flashback flicks!

Re-“Craft”ure Your Childhood
Think of all the fun retro crafts you could make in a program.  You can go to your shelves and find the Retro Revamp craft book for some ideas.

Or you could try some of these ideas . . .
Sock monkeys
Make some potholders on a weaving loom
Shrinky Dinks! (you can do them in a toaster oven)
Crochet flowers – they can be made into bookmarks, headbands and more.  American Girl has a craft kid to help you do this.
Cat’s Cradle games
Chinese checkers
Chinese jump rope games
Cootie catchers – come on, everybody loves them!
Make your own playdough, flubber or slime
Friendship bracelets
Decoupage is kinda old school
Paint suncatchers
Painted rocks
Paint old bottles to use as candle holders

You’re Never Too Old to Read This Book!
All this talk of teens wanting to reclaim their childhood (and who doesn’t want that?) got me thinking . . . we spend a lot of time making lists of adult books for teens, but what about children’s books that teens will still like!

Certainly you would want to include Roald Dahl and Judy Blume.  Some other titles recommended include:
The Phantom Tollbooth
Bone graphic novels
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
The Grand Escape by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
A Dog’s Life by Ann Martin
Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardner
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
Catwings (and the rest of the series) by Ursula LeGuin
Kate Shelly and the Midnight Express by Margaret Wetterer
Keep the Lights Burning Abbie by Peter Roop
Cracker The Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata
Howls Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K LeGuin
Lizard Music by Daniel Manus Pinkwater

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
The Soup books by Robert Newton Peck
Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee
Anne of Green Gables books by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
The Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop

Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright
Return to Gone-Away by Elizabeth Enright
Nancy Drew Series
Boy Who Couldn’t Die by William Sleator
Sammy Keyes by Wendolin Van Draanen
Blue Willow by Doris Gates
The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Some More Retro Craft Resources for You:
Online Fun:
Retro Games Online – share this link to help psyche teens up for your program