Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Professional Book Shelf: They Suck, They Bite, They Eat, They Kill by Dr. Joni Richards Bodart

You can’t be a teen librarian and not know about Dr. Joni Bodart.  She is one of our rock stars.  Dr. Bodart is a strong advocate for teens and teen literature, having written a multitude of professional materials to help us all be better at what we do.  She is passionate about booktalking and reader’s advisory and has written a variety of professional titles to help us all be better at the art of selling our wares to our teens. 

Later this year Dr. Bodart will have a new, and timely, professional title coming out:  They Suck, They Bite, They Eat, They Kill: The Psychological Meaning of Monsters in Young Adult Literature (coming out in December 2011).  Without a doubt, monsters are everywhere in teen lit.  From the widely popular Twilight series, which contains both vampires and shapeshifters, to the Vampire Diaries of old, now a hugely successful series on the CW, vampires have been a staple of teen lit.  But it’s not just vampires anymore; shapeshifters, faeries, half demons and full demons and the ever present zombie are taking over the scene.  There has been a lot of discussion lately about teen lit:  Is it too dark?  In They Suck, They Bite, They Eat, They Kill, Dr. Bodart helps us understand that appeal of monsters to teens (and to us all) and provides an insightful discussion into various titles and series currently popular with our audience.

As Dr. Bodart points out in her introduction, monsters have always been there in our stories.  When humans began telling stories, they began telling of monsters.  Although many worry about an interest in monsters, the truth is that reading about monsters in the safety of a book helps us all examine ourselves and our culture in a safe environment:

They fascinate us, but we recognize their danger and we fear them as well. Books and movies let us step into their world for awhile, to see how close we can get to them without getting caught. And who hasn’t looked up from a scary story to see the twitch of a shadow, the creak of the floor in the hall, and wondered if the monster had escaped from the pages. (Bodart, introduction XX)

Psychologist Carl Jung talked about the idea of the shadow self; the idea that within us all was a monster.  Teens, no doubt, feel this more than most as their hormones kick in and their brain works differently (there is a ton of research that explains how different the teenage brain is).  And society often operates as if it fears teens; we can all probably right now list a variety of staff members who live in fear of 3:00 and the teenage rush the comes into our libraries.  In her introduction, Dr. Bodart further discusses the psychological allure of the monster construct and it is a fascinating read.
Vampires (part 1), shapeshifters (part 2), zombies (part 3) and unexpected monsters (part 4, which includes, angels, unicorns and demons) are all discussed with interesting detail and examples.  Each part begins with some history of the subgenre and a general discussion of example titles.  Then there is more specific discussion of popular titles that highlight the basic elements of the subgenre and its appeal to teen readers.
The vampire discussion starts as any good vampire book discussion should, with the classic The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klaus.  This title is still an amazing read and I appreciate that this is where Dr. Bodart chooses to begin our discussion into the land of monsters.  Other titles discusses include The Tantalize and Blue Blood series as well as The Chronicles of Vlad Todd.  All good choices of inclusion.  It is interesting to read, as noted by Dr. Bodart, the tremendous increase in the amount of vampire titles published in the last ten years. 
Again calling on the classics, Bodart’s shapeshifter begins its discussion with Blood and Chocolate.  I found the discussion in this section especially interesting because I was much less familiar with the tradition of the werewolf stories and honestly haven’t read many titles in this subgenre, with the exception of the Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Steifvater, which is included in the discussion and provides some good information.
If you are a reader of TLT, you know that zombie lit is my favorite so I was looking forward to the discussion of this monster subgenre, which did not disappoint.  Bodart begins with my favorite series, Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry.  Other titles discussed include The Generation Dead and The Enemy series.
The final discussion centers around some unusual monsters, things we don’t often think of as monsters: angels and unicorns.  Sure we get that demons are monsters by definition, but throughout history angels and unicorns are often depicted as creatures on the side of good.  And yet religious tradition also discusses the concept of the fallen angel jealous of humankind.  And we almost always see unicorns as beautiful kind creatures, often found with rainbows for some reason.  So this part of the discussion was fascinating as it has been equally fascinating to see the new twists on this mythology in teen lit over the past few years. 
This is a fascinating read and useful tool.  The background information on the various subgenres of monster lit and specific information about various titles, including information regarding the authors and their interest in the monsters, would be incredibly useful in doing book discussions.  Even in a less formal at the stacks or ref desk interaction, this information will help give you street cred as you can have an intelligent, meaningful conversation with fans and help guide them to read-a-likes.  Plus, the information will help you address parental, staff and administrator concerns that sometimes come up regarding these types of books.  There is meaning in the mythology and Dr. Bodart helps us all take a stand for intellectual freedom and our teens by giving us the information we need to engage in intelligent discussion about the history and psychology of monster lit.  And honestly, it is just a truly fascinating and insightful read.
Booklists are provided in addition to further reading on the various topics discussed.  I would honestly like to see more titles produced on this topic and see it become a series as there are so many other series and titles in this genre to discuss, although the titles she chooses do make a good cross representation of each subgenre.
As Dr. Bodart says, “Supernatural creatures are constructs and tools that teens can use to understand themselves and their worlds better and help them make the decisions that will guide them through those worlds. Who am I? What do I believe? What’s the right thing to do? Feeling like an outsider is a common experience for a teen (Bodart, p. 241).”  These titles are important in the lives of teens, and this is a good resource to understand why – and find more.
I highly recommend that you add this to your professional collection.  And I look forward to discussing it with my fellow librarians when it comes out.  It should make for some good discussion.  This is definitely one tool you’ll want to add to your toolbox.

Edited to add this note:  One of the best features of this title, outside of the excellent discussion, is the appendix which features a comprehensive booklist on the various monsters discussed.  The booklist is arranged by monster (angel, unicorn, vampire, etc.) and lists series and stand alone titles separately.  Within each series listing is a list of each title within the series and an indication of whether or not the series is complete or ongoing.  This is a great bibliographic tool.

Check out my own discussion about zombie lit “What’s the deal with zombies anyway?”

Teen Issues: Autism and Libraries

It is hard these days not to hear about and think about Autism.  Statistics indicate that 1 out of every 110 children are now diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum (ASD).  Statistics also indicate that if you look at only boys, it is 1 out of every 60 boys.  Over the years the rate has slowly been getting higher, which has tremendous immediate and long term implications for all of society, including libraries. (National Autism Association)

I am not a doctor.  I don’t even play one on TV.  But I am the aunt to 3 boys on the spectrum, including 1 that is a teenager.  I am also friends to many families that have autistic children, some of whom are on the higher end of the spectrum, lower functioning.

At times lately I have heard and read about autism and libraries, and I think it is a necessary discussion and frankly we, as a profession, have probably been slower to take part in the discussion then we should have been.  But the truth is, it is a hard discussion to have.

Autism in Teen Fiction

When someone was asking recently about teen fiction titles that deal with autism, a good list was put together.  And yet, I was stirred with a strong sense of conviction to point out what I thought was a fundamental flaw with the way current teen fiction portrays autism.  You see, most of the depictions portray characters with high functioning autism or a type of autism called Asperger’s (not necessarily the same thing).  These depictions do not represent the whole of the spectrum.  They fail to look at life with kids on the high end of the spectrum who are lower functioning.  Those kids that will possibly never leave their homes to live on their own.  These are not the Sheldons from Big Bang Theory (who is often discussed as possibly being on the spectrum in online articles), but more like one of our first popular culture introductions to autism, Rain Man.

I always find teen fiction with autistic characters interesting because they never seem to match my personal experience with autism; the poop smearing, running out of the house naked, will never talk and barely function in society kind (this is not my only experience with autism, it is simply the end of the spectrum that I feel is often ignored in pop culture).  Of the books that I have read, the characters are always milder on the spectrum.  I found The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime and Al Capone Does My Shirts to be the most informative.  I love how in The Curious Incident the main character talks about what he sees in a field compared to what other people see, and I love how he discusses his sensory issues and coping strategies.  There is tremendous to value to any and all depictions of autism in teen literature; teens need to read and understand the wide variety of personalities and challenges living on the spectrum.  It is important for us all to dive into the world of others and develop compassion and understanding and that is true of autism as well.
Teen Fiction Reading Lists: Autism
Here author Nora Raleigh Baskin discusses her title Anything But Typical about a high functioning, nonverbal 12 year old boy.
Here is a presentation on autism in various pop culture mediums including television and literature.
From a Sibling Point of View
I did appreciate getting the siblings point of view in Al Capone.  But what about the teenager living in a home with a family member that is higher on the spectrum, lower functioning?  Where are those books depicting what it is life for a teen to grow up in a home with a sibling that they can’t come home from school and discuss their day?  Where they are woken up at 4 am by a sibling who can’t get back to sleep and is starting to wander outside the home and they try to gently lead them by the hand back into the house and calm them down?  What is life like for a teen who can’t invite their friends over after school out of fear that their sibling will strip naked, start flapping their arms out of stress, or act out aggressively?
When children grow up in homes with special needs siblings, their life experiences can be dramatically different.  A lot of time and financial resources are spent taking care of ASD kids, whether that be for unique medical needs, therapies, or simply trying to calm them down.  There is often a need for routine and predictability in ASD kids, which would put a lot of additional stress on siblings.  Family outings and social activities can become very limited.
Many people don’t understand what life with a low functioning autistic child is like for one simple reason: these families can become prisoners to their child’s autism and don’t spend a lot of time navigating grocery stores and malls because their child can’t take the difference in routine and stimulation.  Autism Speaks created a 13 minute video that tries to better explain what life with an autistic child is like called Autism Every Day.  This is a depiction of younger children, but they grow up to be teens and although there can be improvement through therapies and other interventions, there are still teens who appear higher on the spectrum.  Plus, for many teens, this is their experience of autism with siblings.
One of the things I would like to see in teen literature is more discussion and depictions of what life is like for teens living in a world impacted by more severe types of autism.  These teens need to see their experiences and feelings validated in the stories that they read.  They need to know that they are not alone.  And they need to know that what they think and feel as their lives are touched by autism is normal.
What Can Libraries Do?
Even as someone whose life has been touched first hand by autism, I recognize that I am not an expert at all and find it difficult to come up with practical ideas for libraries.  There are so many who are better trained and equipped to provide libraries with the information they need to work ASD kids and teens.  I really recommend reaching out and tapping into their expertise.
I think libraries should reach out to specialists in their communities (contact your local schools) and ask them to come in and do training with staff.  Help staff understand what autism is and to help those families that come in with children on the spectrum.  Help staff to understand that not all instances of problem behavior in the library necessarily means that bad parenting is involved; sometimes when that child is throwing themselves on the floor and throwing a fit they are experiencing an actual physical pain as they take in too much stimulation.  An essential part of serving our communities is understanding them and their needs.  People from your local community can also help you understand the make up of your local autistic community: what percentage is there, what ages, what services are offered, etc.
Check with your community to see if there are any autism support groups.  Allow them to meet in your library’s meeting rooms and offering programming for teen siblings in another on site location while these meetings take place.  Siblings need an opportunity to have support, too.  And sometimes, they just want to meet with a group of peers and have fun like all teens do.  You can give them those opportunities while supporting their families.  These families are also one of the best resources to tap into for information and training as they are living it every day.
ALA has put together some training called Libraries and Autism: We’re Connected.  There are a lot of resources here so please check it out.  I think this resource talks more specifically to what libraries can do for teens on the spectrum and does it well, so I won’t repeat it here.  Please go check it out.
And as always, have a variety of resources available to your patrons.  Put together a list of resources in-house, nonfiction and fiction titles for family members of all ages, and some contact information for local agencies.  Toys R Us in an example of someone who does this well; they have put together a sheet online and in their stores highlighting specific toys that work well with children on the spectrum.  Libraries can create the same type of informational resources for families highlighting library resources and services that meet the needs of these families. 
April is Autism Awareness Month.  This is a good time to do displays, training and seminars to the public.  It is also a great time to do special programming for kids on the spectrum and their siblings.  Autism has tremendous impact on families and the community as a whole, so spend some time making yourself and your staff aware of this impact and learning how to meet the unique challenges presented.  You want to make sure to address everything from customer service at the front line services desks to programming and community outreach.  Autism is not going away (although I do hope they find a cure, and soon), we need to be proactive in serving our teens affected by autism.
Other Resources:
Blog post: What pop culture has taught me about autism
The Altantic: When autism stars
School Library Journal: The Voices of Autism
School Library Journal: The Equal Opportunity Disorder
School Library Journal: Remarkable Reads: Autism
Service on the Spectrum: Mediating the Information Needs of Teenagers with Autism Spectrum Disorders in the Public Library
The Curious Inciden of the Dog in the Nighttime discussion group questions
Scholastic: Al Capone Does My Shirt discussion guide

Asset Builder’s Coalition support materials

I was very honored to have an article appear regarding asset building in the October 2011 edition of VOYA (page 354), the Voice of Youth Advocates.  My article was entitled Mpact: An Asset Builder’s Coalition and if you are a regular reader here at TLT you know that I am a big advocate for using the Search Institutes 40 Developmental Assets in program planning and evaluation.  It also provides a good framework for communicating the importance of what you do to your co-workers, administration, and community.  It’s all in the article, read it.  In this post I am going to share with you some of the support materials that didn’t fit into the article.  You’re welcome.

Getting the Word Out
Getting things organized is often the hardest part.  Before you can be a coalition, you need members.  So spend some time getting organized.  Develop your organizations vision, purpose and goals.  Then send out invitations to area organizations that work with youth and ask them to come and share their knowledge and resources.

Text of initial letter sent to community agencies that work with teens:

As the teen services librarian at ____________________, I am invested in helping teens meet their full potential through both educational and recreational information and services.  I would like for those of us in the ______________ community who provide services for teens to come together and share information and resources, and to engage in some joint programming through a group I am calling _____________, the area asset builder’s coalition for youth. 

Our goal, simply stated, will be to Share, Link, Promote.

As a coalition, we will work together to successfully develop a coalition of community partners who value youth, and commit time and resources for initiatives to reduce risky behaviors in teens and provide positive community experiences.  Our goals will be:

  1. To share information regarding individual organizations purpose, goals, and upcoming events.
  2. To share experiences and generate ideas for marketing and promotion, event planning, and resource sharing.
  3. To plan a yearly community event for teens 
Coalition partners will actively attended meetings and work together to form common goals that draw upon the strengths and unique offerings of each of the individual organizations that work in the community with teens.  Partners will also use this as an opportunity to learn about various area resources so they can appropriately refer teens when needs are expressed.  In addition, partners will work together to plan larger community events to provide teens with community based outlets to express their creativity, divest their individual talents and resources and expend their energy in healthy, meaningful ways.  And finally, coalition partners shepherd initiatives that fit with their community involvement and goals.

Our goal is to continue to develop relationships throughout the community in order to expand participation in coalition initiatives and generally encourage support for youth. Each coalition partner will participate in planning and strategies that find opportunities to connect with youth, parents, community leaders, law enforcement personnel, education systems and business owners in _________.

The Framework

Asset building is a framework that helps provide passion, purpose and communication when working with teens.  Your passion and your purpose, to help provide teens with positive assets through your programs and services.  And as you communicate with your co-workers, your administration and your community, you help them see how there is value in what you do, in what the library does in the lives of teens and for the community.  Successful, engaged teens developing positive assets is not only good for teens – it is good for the local community and all of society in the long term (not an exaggeration, the Search Institute has done the research to back up this claim.)

At our first meeting I shared our vision, purpose and goals while explaining the need and benefit for an asset builder’s coalition:

The Model
At our meetings we discussed:

  • What are the assets and how do you use them?
  • Community organization basics:  Define the goals of your organization, basic operating information, who to contact, when to refer. (I really recommend developing a wiki to share this information and allow all participating organizations the opportunity to update and keep it current.  In addition, this is a good way to share a calendar of local events to avoid scheduling conflicts.)
  • Marketing to teens (Our local United Way marketing coordinator was involved and she shared a lot of helpful information.  United Way is really good at marketing.)
  • Social media use with teens
  • What types of past programming has been successful, and why.
  • Basic adolescent development
  • Specifics of our communities, the make up, the challenges, local history and eccentricities


Their is power in networking.  Libraries today, in fact many organizations today, face a shortage of resources including staff, staff time, and money.  Working with community organizations takes an investment in time, but it can reap bigger rewards.  Instead of being one teen librarian working to help youth, you become a network of people working to help youth.  You know the saying, two brains are better than one; by networking you increase your potential through increased knowledge and increased resources.  Plus, there is great benefit to learning what is working well for others and what doesn’t as  this can help influence your decision making.  And as you share upcoming programming schedules, you help eliminate those conflicts that often arise when you set programming dates and times in a bubble.

The challenge is someone must take the first step and be willing to be the organizer.  This takes a tremendous amount of time, energy and commitment.  You have to be enthusiastic and patient; just like programming, you don’t necessarily get immediate interest and success.  You have to make sure there is someone scheduled to present (cross train) at each meeting.  You need an agenda, refreshments, and the ability to keep the conversation going.  But most of all, you have to believe that what you are doing is important; we all fail without vision, but together you can create a common vision for the youth in your community.

Other TLT posts that discuss asset bulding:
Understanding the Wild Child
Don’t Underestimate the Value of “Hanging Out”
Marketing Teen Services to Non Teen Services Staff part 1 and part 2

End Note: Evaluating YOUR Teen Services Program Using the 40 Developmental Assets

We have discussed using the assets to evaluate and communicate your teen services program.  At the end of each year I simply make a quick outline of the assets and make sure what we are doing accomplishes what we say we are doing.  Think of it as creating a yearly plan and then making sure at the end of the year that you met your goals.  Here is an example:

40 Developmental Assets
Through extensive research, Search Institute has identified the following 40 building blocks of healthy development that help young people grow up healthy, caring, and responsible. The _________ Public Library actively helps teens address and meet 27 of the 40 assets listed below, proving that the ___________ Public Library is essential community resource in the life of teenagers in the Marion community.
External Assets:
Support, Empowerment, Boundaries and Expectations, and Constructive Use of Time
1. Family Support-Family life provides high levels of love and support.
2. Positive Family Communication-Young person and her or his parent(s) communicate positively, and young person is willing to seek advice and counsel from parents.
3. Other Adult Relationships-Young person receives support from three or more nonparent adults.
·         Library staff provides positive adult interaction to community teens and help teenagers successfully navigate the library environment. 
·         Teens who regularly attend Teen CoffeeHouse develop a positive relationship with Teen Services Librarian.
·         Through reader’s advisory and informal book discussions, many regular teens develop a positive relationship with Teen Services Librarian.
4. Caring Neighborhood-Young person experiences caring neighbors.Library resources, especially those designed especially for teens, communicate that the library community cares for teens in the community.
5. Caring School Climate-School provides a caring, encouraging environment.
6. Parent Involvement in Schooling-Parent(s) are actively involved in helping young person succeed in school.
7. Community Values Youth-Young person perceives that adults in the community value youth.
·         The library provides a developmentally appropriate teen program that meets a variety of their needs and interests, including a special teen resource collection, which communicates value in the community.
8. Youth as Resources-Young people are given useful roles in the community.
·         Through regular interaction with the Teen Services Librarian, both informal and at programming, teens give input into programming, services and collection.
9. Service to Others-Young person serves in the community one hour or more per week.
10. Safety-Young person feels safe at home, school, and in the neighborhood.
·         The Teen CoffeeHouse provides a developmentally appropriate, enjoyable environment for teens in their neighborhood.
11. Family Boundaries-Family has clear rules and consequences and monitors the young person’s whereabouts.
12. School Boundaries-School provides clear rules and consequences.
13. Neighborhood Boundaries-Neighbors take responsibility for monitoring young people’s behavior.
·         The acceptable behavior policy helps outline responsible behavior for teens in the library.
14. Adult Role Models-Parent(s) and other adults model positive, responsible behavior.
·         All library staff and the Teen Services Librarian directly model positive, responsible behavior to teens in the community.
15. Positive Peer Influence-Young person’s best friends model responsible behavior.
16. High Expectations-Both parent(s) and teachers encourage the young person to do well.
17. Creative Activities-Young person spends three or more hours per week in lessons or practice in music, theater, or other arts.
·         The library’s teen services programs provides a variety of opportunities for teens to be creative, including drawing and poetry contests, etc.
18. Youth Programs-Young person spends three or more hours per week in sports, clubs, or organizations at school and/or in the community.
·         The library’s teen services program provides a variety of programs that provide teens with opportunities to engage in developmentally appropriate programming.
19. Religious Community-Young person spends one or more hours per week in activities in a religious institution.
20. Time at Home-Young person is out with friends “with nothing special to do” two or fewer nights per week.
Internal Assets:
Commitment to Learning, Positive Values, Social Competencies and Positive Identity
21. Achievement Motivation-Young person is motivated to do well in school.
22. School Engagement-Young person is actively engaged in learning.
·         Library has essential resources for teens engaging in learning
23. Homework-Young person reports doing at least one hour of homework every school day.
·         Library resources are beneficial in the successful completion of homework
24. Bonding to School-Young person cares about her or his school.
25. Reading for Pleasure-Young person reads for pleasure three or more hours per week.
·         Library provides an extensive collection for teens reading enjoyment
·         Library provides a variety of programs and events that encourage reading for pleasure
Note about education oriented internal assets below:  The ___________ Public Library provides a variety of resources, both fiction and nonfiction, to help teens explore, develop and enhance these internal assets.  The teen collection, which has developmentally appropriate titles written specifically for teens in a manner that will engage them, is an important part of helping teens in the community address these internal assets.
26. Caring-Young person places high value on helping other people.
27. Equality and Social Justice-Young person places high value on promoting equality and reducing
hunger and poverty.
28. Integrity-Young person acts on convictions and stands up for her or his beliefs.
29. Honesty-Young person “tells the truth even when it is not easy.”
30. Responsibility-Young person accepts and takes personal responsibility.
31. Restraint-Young person believes it is important not to be sexually active or to use alcohol or other drugs.
32. Planning and Decision Making-Young person knows how to plan ahead and make choices.
33. Interpersonal Competence-Young person has empathy, sensitivity, and friendship skills.
34. Cultural Competence-Young person has knowledge of and comfort with people of different cultural/racial/ethnic backgrounds.
35. Resistance Skills-Young person can resist negative peer pressure and dangerous situations.
36. Peaceful Conflict Resolution-Young person seeks to resolve conflict nonviolently.
37. Personal Power-Young person feels he or she has control over “things that happen to me.”
38. Self-Esteem-Young person reports having a high self-esteem.
39. Sense of Purpose-Young person reports that “my life has a purpose.”
40. Positive View of Personal Future-Young person is optimistic about her or his personal future

Special thanks to VOYA for the opportunity to share my passion for teens and asset building.

TPIB: Once Upon a Time

upon a time, there were tales . . . and today, those tales are being re-told.  With a twist.

One of my very favorite fairy tales retold is Enchanted by Orson Scott Card.  It is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty; but what I really love about it is the way he portrays the magic of womanhood.  What we call women’s intuition he calls magic and as he weaves his world you know that you are a part of something special.

Some of my other favorites include Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (great book, horrible horrible movie) and Beastly by Alex Flinn (ditto).  It is fun to read these twisted takes on old stories and see how they can be re-imagined.

And how can you overlook the always fantastic The Princess Bride by William Goldman.  And the movie, a perennial classic that still should work with the teen audience . . .

The Grandson: A book?
Grandpa: That’s right. When I was your age, television was called books. And this is a special book. It was the book my father used to read to me when I was sick, and I used to read it to your father. And today I’m gonna read it to you.
The Grandson: Has it got any sports in it?
Grandpa: Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…
The Grandson: Doesn’t sound too bad. I’ll try to stay awake.
Grandpa: Oh, well, thank you very much, very nice of you. Your vote of confidence is overwhelming.

Just, brilliant. (More The Princess Bride quotes at IMDB)

Soon there will be 2 shows debuting on TV that focus on retelling classic fairy tales:  Once Upon a Time and Grimm.

The zeitgeist is right to start pushing those teen fiction tales, old and new, by making displays and doing programming tie ins.  Why here’s a poster to help you with your display needs.  You’re welcome.

You can download the poster at http://www.box.net/shared/p8o2qc10ebs93tt1d6jt

There is a pretty good list of fairy tales old and new at GoodReads.  There are also some here, here and herePublisher’s Weekly also had an article in the February 17, 2011 edition that talks about a new Harlequin series.

Teen Program in a Box:

Fairy tales of all types are great for programming tie-ins.  You can be creative, and inspire creativity.  You can go big, or simply spend an afternoon reading tales and eating cookies (but don’t eat too many, you never know when a witch is trying to fatten you up to put you in the stew.)

For younger teens, bead and princess themed crafts would work.  You can also do some Nerf jousting.  Build castles out of Legos.  Play capture the flag.  Life size chess (think Harry Potter) or Battleship would also work.  Do not underestimate the fun in some water fights during the summer months (outside of course).

If you are so inclined, these stories are a great opportunity to engage in some fun reader’s theater activities.  Or you could have the teens make and put on fairy tale inspired puppet shows for younger kids.  John Sciezka tales would work great for that.  You could have a series of events where teens selected the pieces, wrote the scripts, discusses approach and practiced, and then presented.  This is a great idea for increasing teen involvement in your programming.

Fairy tales are ripe for creative writing and drawing exercises.  The exquisite corpse works for both storytelling as well as creature drawing.  Also, any activities that focuses on monsters, costuming (think Project Runway type challenges), and survival (let’s face it – we all want to survive the evil beings that haunt fairy tale land).

You can set up a fairy tale themed scavenger hunt through your library where they have to help Little Red Riding Hood get the basket of goodies to grandma.  They collect the basket of goodies as part of the scavenger hunt.  Be sure and get a teen to play the part of the big bad wolf and create fun obstacles along the way.

Don’t think for a moment that teens don’t let to be pampered like a princess, so princess make-overs would definitely work.  You could decorate flip flops to be pseudo glass slippers and make bead tiaras.  And there are some great spa activities in Beauty: Things to Make and Do by Jennifer Traig.

Fairy tales are full of imagination, which makes them fun to adapt for programming.  You can find tie-ins for a variety of crafts and activities.  And the more creative opportunities you allow teens to engage in, the better.  If you don’t want to do come to the library programming, you can do drawing and story telling programming in the form of contests where teens create and share online.

Whatever you do, be sure to tap into this pop culture moment and strike while the iron is hot.  And please feel free to share your programming ideas and pictures in the comments or on the TLT FB wall.

Occupy the Capitol: Engaging Teens in Politics

For the purposes of this post, it is really important that we come together as advocates for youth and leave behind our own personal political opinions.  Really, you’ll understand what I mean in a moment.

Regardless of what you may think about the Occupy Wall Street movement (OWS) and it’s message, I for one am glad that it is happening for one simple reason:  it is good for teens to see politics in action.  It is good for teens to see others engaging in the conversation and to know that they, too, can stand up and be heard.  The bottom line is this: It is important for teens to read, see and hear about politics in action.  They need to know and understand that they have a voice and not only can they use it, but that they should.

For years we have been hearing about low voter turn out.  And there has been a complacency on the part of America’s citizens regarding the politics of our country.  We have freedoms, important freedoms like the freedom to vote and be engaged citizens, but too many of our citizens choose not to.  And as we all know, modeling behavior is a far greater message.  There is truth to the saying that children will do what they see not what they hear.  So it is good for the youth of today to see American citizens engaged in healthy discourse and debate about our future.

For a period of time following 9/11 there was an overwhelming sense of American solidarity that in some ways quashed dissenting opinions.  Unlike the Vietnam War, few spoke out in protest initially against the various wars America engaged in.  To do so seemed un-American.  Those that did speak out were often publicly disgraced so they choose instead to keep quiet.  It is important for us all to remember that the freedom to speak unpopular opinions and challenge current ideals is an important part of who we are as a nation.  It is one of the fundamental rights that our nation was built on, appearing first in our Bill of Rights.

As we enter into the 2012 election season, it is important that we find creative ways to remind teens the importance of using their voice.  We can of course put up a variety of displays, both fiction and non.  But we can also get teens engaged through things like book discussions, mock trials, and simulated voting exercises.  Mtv has been engaged for years in politically empowering young people through their Rock the Vote campaign so be sure and check there for good resources to share, too.

Get teens thinking about the importance of being involved in the political process.  Read and discuss works such as 1984 by George Orwell, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, or The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  The message of these, any many other titles, it clear:  what happens when government takes over and the voice of its citizens are silenced?  What happens when those citizens refuse to use their voice, either out of fear and complacency, and government is no longer for the people, by the people?  In comparison, what happens when the voice of the few rise up, as they do in The Hunger Games, and challenge a corrupt government?

Get teens started in the idea of voting by having a Mock Printz Award vote.  Or have teens vote their favorite teen fiction characters into office.  Katniss Everdeen for President!  There are so many ways you can get teens involved in mock voting activities and it is a great way to remind them to use their voice.

Many schools have mock trial contests, find out if your local schools do and ask to be involved.  If they don’t, see about starting one as a part of your teen programming at your library.  You can take some popular teen fiction characters and put them on trail.  Is it okay for the kids in The Hunger Games to use violence to overthrow the corrupt government?  Put Lena on trial for falling in love in Delirium by Lauren Oliver.

Make sure you participate in Banned Books Week.

Have a Teen Advisory Group.  Let them be involved in the planning, organizing, voting, etc. of various activities.

When you share contests, links, news stories, etc. on your web or social media page, make sure some of them demonstrate teens being pro-actively involved in the political process.  You can use the poll feature on Facebook to let teens mock vote.

As long as it is civil and library appropriate, give teens a forum to express themselves and find their political voice.  Remind them that it is okay to change your mind; it is important to be open to new facts and information and grow.  That is why what we do is so important: engaged citizens must be informed citizens.  Keep providing access to a wide variety of information so that teens can learn who they are, what they think, and what their place is in this universe.

As you can see, there are a variety of ways that we can give teens a voice and remind them that using it is important not only for them, but for us all.  For every voice silenced, we may be losing the next great invention or scientific discovery.  Plus, as youth advocates, we must understand that empowering teens creates healthy teens.

Teen Fiction Dealing with Politics:
Vote for Larry (and its sequel) by Janet Tashjian
The Misfits by James Howe
Wide Awake by David Levithan
Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and most dystopian fiction
1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Mock Trial Information
NY Times Article
Lesson Plan, refers to Holes by Louis Sachar
ClassBrain.com Mock Trial Script for Teens

Mock Printz Awards Example
ACPL Mock Printz

Teens and Politics Resources:
Mtv Rock the Vote
Radical Parenting 5 Tips
Teens: Politics is for you, too
Youth Noise

“What’s the deal with zombies anyway?”

Right now the dead have risen – both from the grave and in popularity.  There is no denying that right now zombies are, erm, hot?  Sure technically I guess they should be cold, being dead and all, but as far as pop culture trends go – they are HOT.  World War Z by Max Brooks is being made into a movie starring Brad Pitt as we speak.  Two nights ago the second season premiere of The Walking Dead aired.  Zombies have made an appearance on almost every Disney show (trust me, I watch a lot of Disney so I know).  In fact right now you can go play a Wizards of Waverly Place zombie themed game (Zombies on the 13th Floor) at Disney.com.

On Saturday, October 15th, I went to the Dallas Zombie Walk and saw zombies of all ages – from babies to teens to grown ups – walk the streets of downtown Dallas, some of them going all out in their costumes.  That night they showed a sneak peek of The Walking Dead.  And this month the Dallas Children’s Theater is doing an all teen production of Night of the Living Dead, which I think is immensely cool.  And libraries everywhere are having zombie proms and zombie programs.  My library is even having a zombie themed event next Monday, October 24th.  And there is no shortage of awesome zombie themed reading available at your library.


I have a tweenager, however, that is not necessarily on board the zombie train.  So yesterday she asked me the question I am sure that is on a lot of people’s minds: What’s the deal with you and zombies anyway?   (Note: zombie author Jonathan Maberry has a panel discussion up on his website that also attempts to answer this question.) And I wanted to give her a good answer and it went something like this:

What I like about zombie fiction (and I think it applies to dystopian fiction, too) is the underlying discussion of good versus evil.  And the question we must all ask ourselves: who do you become in the face of extreme adversity?  After a brief discussion of what adversity is (she is a young tweenager), I think she started to understand.  You see, it is easy for those of us who are basically good people to do good when life is easy.  The question, however, seems to be will we continue to be good in the face of extreme circumstances?  Who would you, or I, become if we woke up one morning and found that there were only a few 1,000 people left on the planet and we had to spend our days scavenging for food and water while trying not to be eaten by zombies?  When the tables are turned, do we still choose to be good people?  Does what it means to be a good person change in these types of situations?

For example, in the second season premiere of The Walking Dead (spoiler warning!!!!), our merry band of survivors find themselves stuck on a freeway surrounded by deserted cars and decide to search them to find the necessities of life.  One of the characters feels uncomfortable with this proposition because it is “grave robbing.”  In the movie Zombieland, the survivors often go in and “rob” stores.  But the rules have changed.  It’s like the age old question posed in Les Miserables, is it okay to steal to feed your family.  But pushed to the extreme, is it even really stealing if everyone else is dead?  (To be honest, I didn’t really mind the survival need to rob the store, but I was bothered by the way the trashed everything in it – although I did understand the extreme stress and release that it conveyed).

Zombie fiction (and again, dystopian fiction) is a great spring board for discussions of ethics and compassion and humanity.  If my tweenager woke up one morning a zombie, what would be the compassionate thing to do?  Could I be the one to pull the trigger and keep her from becoming a mindless need to feed motivated monster?  (See Rot & Ruin for a great discussion of monsters vs. men.)   Can we, as educators, draw parallels between this concept and discussions regarding quality of life and euthanasia and end of life decisions?  Why yes, yes we can.  And you need look no further than your zombie and dystopian fiction for discussions on violence and society, human psychology, government structure, etc.  There is rich discussion and thought in zombie and dystopian fiction, all packaged within some fun, tense thrills and chills.

And I think apocalyptic fiction is so hot right now in part because, well, it often feels culturally like we are in fact on the verge of an apocalypse, probably more so to teens.  You can’t help but read every day in the news a variety of stressful news stories: we are on the verge of economic collapse, we are on the verge of environmental collapse, we are on the verge of overpopulation and a deficit of adequate resources.  These are stressful and scary times for adults, they must be tremendously overwhelming for kids and teens.  Even if they don’t understand it all, they can’t help but notice that they are living in a climate of fear and stress.  And many of them are being personally affected as their parents are being laid off at worse, or at least tightening the proverbial belts and life is being lived much differently.  As a nation our spirits are worn out, and we sometimes must appear as spiritual zombies just going through the motions of life as we wait for the next shoe to drop.

Many of these themes come up in teen fiction.  Scarcity of resources. Check.  Environmental disaster.  Check.  Good vs. Evil.  Check.  Government corruption.  Check.

One of my favorite series in the zombie fiction is Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry.  Don’t read this next part if you haven’t read it.  You have been warned.  In Rot & Ruin, society has collapsed and enclaves have been formed behind large walls designed to keep the monsters, the zombies, out.  Resources are scarce so everyone has to start working at 15 and their rations are decreased if they don’t.  Rot & Ruin is the story of Benny, just turned 15 and his attempts to find himself in this new world.  But it is also the story of Tom, a zombie hunter with a twist.  Don’t worry, I won’t tell you the twist.  But it is also a great discussion of good vs. evil and who we become in the face of great adversity: what makes a monster and who are the monsters?

In most zombie fiction today, zombiism (probably not really a word, but we’re going to go with it) is a result of a virus that has wiped out most of humanity and caused them to re-animate.  These are barely living dead people with no real brain function.  They are not necessarily acting so much as they are being acted upon.  But the people who live in a post apocalyptic world, the people like you and I, they are forced to make extraordinary choices in a world we could never imagine.  It is interesting to see what choices they make, how they shape both their inner selves and their outer worlds.  Can their choices make them monsters?

In some ways, the survivors of a post apocalyptic world are like the settlers of old – they have an opportunity to build (or in this case rebuild) a new society.  Can they learn from the mistakes of the past?  What would that new society look like?  Will they strive for justice and freedom, or is there really an overwhelming tendency for societies to be greedy and corrupt and always on the brink?  What type of people rise to power?  Can ordinary people become extraordinary heroes?  These are just a few of the many questions that zombie and dystopian fiction allow us to ponder.  When we read it we get to go outside of ourselves and yet examine ourselves at the same time. 

Plus, let’s not forget, sometimes a little scary tension is just fun.  Seriously, there have been studies here and there looking at why people like scary movies.  I personally prefer my zombies slow and shambling, that’s enough tension for me thanks.  Let me put my request in right now, should the zombie apocalypse happen please let them be the slow and shambling type so I have a chance of surviving.  Those 28 Days Later fast zombies scare me; unless I start marathon training in the next few days I don’t have a chance of surviving that type of zombie apocalypse.  I think I’ll just read about it instead.

Zombies titles to share with your teens . . .

Some newer titles not pictured include:
Z by Michael Thomas Ford
Ashes by Ilsa Black
The Enemy (series) by Charles Higson

Some dystopian fiction to share with your teens . . .

Some other titles not pictured include:
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
the Maze Runner (series) by James Dashner
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Author Joni Bodart has an upcoming book dealing with monsters – including zombies – in Young Adult literature entitled They Suck, They Bite, They Eat, They Kill.  You’ll want to check it out.
Some more discussion about zombies:
Holly Black discusses Why zombies are better than unicorns (Be sure to check out her stories in Zombies vs. Unicorns)
Wikipedia (shudder) has a long list of resources to look at
Previous TLT Posts about zombies and dystopian fiction:

Resolve to Read: Helping Teens Make New Year’s Resolutions that Include Reading

Believe it or not, the new year is just around the corner.  I know you are thinking, but no I am just getting ready for Teen Read Week.  And yet even as we do our current programming we must always be thinking 4 to 6 months ahead to the future; part of successful programming is making sure you give yourself enough time to plan, organize, and – most importantly – promote upcoming programs.

Here’s a tip: Because most library material due dates are 3 to 4 weeks, you should always have promotional materials out 3 to 4 weeks in advance (minimum) to catch the eye of those once a month library visitors.  And of course you should avoid promoting in-house only, there you are basically preaching to the choir.  Get the word out beyond the walls of your library building, your schools are of course a great way to do this but don’t forget about the community at large.  But I digress.

What is Your New Year’s Resolution?
Every year at the beginning of the year people everywhere begin to make New Year’s resolutions:  I will lose 10 pounds.  I will eat healthier.  I will train to run in a 5K.  I will give up (insert vice here).  How many people include resolutions about reading in their resolution making?  Well, beyond us librarians.  And what about our teens?

January can often be a slow time programming wise.  Teens are right in the middle of the school year and we are all just coming off of the holidays.  Teen Read Week is over.  We begin thinking about planning our TSRCs for the summer.  This is a great time to do some fun programming in the form of a Winter Reading Club!  So make it your New Year’s resolution to help teens make it their New Year’s resolution to read more.

Resolve to Read
Our children’s department had decided to do a winter reading club, and to great success.  So I decided to piggy back off of their success and do a winter reading club called Resolve to Read.  My goal was simple:  encourage teens to make it their New Year’s resolution to read more and then provide some fun ways for them to do that.  Your WRC does not have to be as involved as the SRC; remember your teens don’t have the same amount of free time that they have during the summer. 

Amount of Time vs. Number of Books
Year after year I do surveys at the end of my TSRC and teens always indicate that they prefer reporting amount of time reading as opposed to number of books read.  This makes sense to me as it takes a lot longer to read a Harry Potter book then it does, say, the newest Orca paperback.  So I recommend picking a time unit – let’s say 30 minutes a day – and asking teens to resolve to read 30 minutes a day.  Then for every 30 minutes they read, they can fill out a prize entry form and enter into a random drawing.  If you have the money, you can offer a small prize for teens once they reach a certain amount of time.

Have a Read In
As part of your programming offer a day where teens can come visit you in the library and do a “read in”.  Saturday can be a good day for this.  Set up your programming room nice and cozy like (think rocking chairs, butterfly chairs and beanbag chairs) and offer teens the opportunity to drop in and read for as long as they like.  For each half hour they are there that day they get an entry form.  You can also have a bonus drawing for that day: a special prize that is only available to teens that drop in to the read-in.  Make sure you have a variety of snacks on hand throughout the day and staff to give you breaks.

31 Days of Reading
For a variation you can put together a type of bingo calendar that asks teens to read through the genres and formats.  So you can put a different activity for each day on a calendar and ask them to complete a certain number, say 2, a week for entry.  So one time you ask them to choose and read a Science fiction book and another time you ask them to read Sports fiction.  You can also ask them to read books by various authors.  Make sure you have displays set up (or end cap signage) that gives them some titles to choose in each genre).  Teens may just discover a new author or genre that they like.

A template for 31 Days of Reading

Like I said, this can be as laid back as you want it to be.  It doesn’t need to include a lot of additional programming as the emphasis is on the reading and it is pretty self-directed on the part of the teens.  For you the work comes in organizing and planning and yet it frees you up to have January (and if you choose February) to work on putting together your TSRC.  Any prizes you offer can also be on a smaller scale then what you might do for your TSRC; you can offer a simple pre-paid $50.00 gift card or perhaps left overs from your supply closet that you turn into a gift basket.  Actually, a gift basket full of movies, popcorn, candy and pop would also be a good prize for this time of year.  Or see if your administration will let you give out coupons to “read off your fines” (another program I have done with great success and will write up in the future).

Happy resolving!

Put the “Read” in Teen Read Week

Every year teen librarians put together amazing programs at their library in celebration of Teen Read Week.  There are craft programs.  Zombie proms.  Sometimes there are even author events.  But how do you put the read in Teen Read Week?

Read Around the Clock
Me, I encourage my teens to read by offering incentives.  I know that there are a lot of mixed emotions (and even some research) surrounding the idea of offering rewards for reading.  I get that there is something to be said for doing something because of its intrinsic value.  We do it for Summer Reading Clubs, so why not for Teen Read Week?
In the interest of simplicity sake, I ask my teens to read 15 minutes a day.  For every 15 minutes that they read they get to fill out an entry form which goes into a Grand Prize Drawing.  If I have the money, I will give a small prize when they complete 4 entry forms, or have read 1 hour – or when they have read around the clock (clever, right).  These prizes have included the multi-lingual read and read on bracelets from Janway.  Sometimes I have gotten small food prizes donated from local eateries.The theory is, the more teens read during TRW, the greater their chances of winning the grand prize.  Don’t forget that books make great prizes!
You can modify this by having “Read Ins” or “Read-a-Thons” and have specific times and locations for the teens to come and read.  Their attendance then becomes their entry into the prize drawing.  These are great things to do during Saturday or Sunday hours or as part of a lock-in event should you be so inclined to have them.  The benefit of having teens read at the library is that it cuts down on bogus entries and drawing box stuffing. (And I say this because every year staff will point out that by doing drawings like these, we know that some teens are lying.  The truth is that it happens all the time in all age groups and we just have to accept that there is a percentage of false entries and move on.)

Kick-Off Teen Read Week

My favorite Teen Read Week activity involved a sports theme.  I don’t normally do sports, at all, but I will do sports for my teens.  I love them that much.
TRW Kicked-Off on Monday with a Meet the Team night.  The local high school coach was kind enough to bring the football team in and have a meet and greet.  If you can coordinate it, I recommend getting the cheerleading team to come, too.  The coach talked briefly about the importance of reading and then each player introduced themselves and talked about their favorite book.  There are a ton of people on a football team.  Then we just had an informal mingle meet and greet with some snacks and drinks.  Pretty laid back, but really helped in community building and tapped into the things that teens are interested in.  Plus, by involving the football team we had teens providing programming for teens and I love it when that happens.
Everyone who came to the meet and greet was entered into a drawing to win a free limo ride that was donated by a local provider.  Since this all tied in with Homecoming which was just around the corner – genius.

Then, for my grand prize, we provided more limo rides, make-overs and nail treatments from a local salon, and dinner gift certificates.  A lot of teen programming tends to meet the younger end of the teen audience needs, but this program really drew in the older end of the teen spectrum.  And the younger teens enjoyed meeting the older football players.

If you do a homecoming tie-in type of event and are looking for some additional programming during the week you can also do a Project Runway or Project Accessory type of craft program.  You can also do a variety of sports related crafts, such as making photo themed frames or booster posters for teens to take to the upcoming game.

Read for the Fun of It
The bottom line is that our goal during TRW is to remind teens that reading isn’t all about reading Ivanhoe because your English teacher is going to test you on it on Monday morning.  Our goal is to remind teens that reading is FUN!  So our question is: How do we make reading fun?

This is a great time to bust out scary stories, especially since TRW takes place in October.  Sit around a “camp fire” with a flashlight and share some spooky tales.  Get out your joke books and have a stand up comedy night.  Have a poetry slam (or better yet, save that for April which is National Poetry Month).  Have a book discussion group and compare a movie to its book.  Make your own “Get Caught Reading” posters using your teens.  And make sure that they see YOU reading.

Put up a variety of fun displays.  Don’t forget to include some of your more offbeat and fun nonfiction titles.  Reading for fun doesn’t have to mean reading fiction!

Have a great Teen Read Week . . . and read for the fun of it!


Note: Some organizations, such as Pizza Hut (Book It!) and Target, already do reading related marketing as a part of their community mission.  Contact them to see if they will offer prizes for your Teen Read Week programming.

Teen Fiction on the Silver Screen, part 1

In the past few years, we have seen a real influx of movies based upon popular teen titles, Harry Potter and Twilight being among the most popular.  As we speak the first Hunger Games movie has finished filming and is set for release in March of 2012.  Upcoming titles include The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Heist Society and the Chaos Walking trilogy.

To be more accurate, although the Hunger Games has finished filming and Perks is currently filming, Heist Society and the Chaos Walking trilogy have been optioned.  This means that a film company has bought the rights (the option) to make a book into a movie, but it doesn’t guarantee that it will happen.  Ally Carter, author of Heist Society, talks about that on her page.  In fact, the Gallagher Girls was optioned and never filmed and the option has since run out, which means that the rights have now gone back to the author.  So she can try again or decide not to make it into a movie.  I think the Gallagher Girls would be a fun movie – and they would have such great titles. (Note: Ally Carter even has a nice, informative post entitled How Movies Happen.  Thank you Ally Carter!)

For a real look at how a book may or may not be made into a movie, look no further then Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.  Ender’s Game is a great book that would make a great movie, although I bet it would be expensive to make it well.  For years now there has been talk of this iconic teen sci fi title being made into a movie.  Today you can even find a press release indicating that they are casting roles for the big screen pic.  Whether or not the title ever gets filmed – well, we’ll have to wait and see.
You can look at the movie blog and see that they have been talking about making the book into a movie way back in 2008.

If you click on this link there is a good, short informational YouTube video on how a book becomes a movie.  Go on do it – you know you want to follow the link and watch the video.  It’s very informative.

As a librarian I can’t help but wonder, does turning a movie into a book result in more reading?  Anecdotally I would say yes (deep research that is).  After the release of I am Number Four into the theaters there certainly seemed to be and increase in demand for the book title.  And it seems as if many people are coming looking for the sequel, the Power of Six.  I think, in addition, real interest in books is generated when publishers create spin offs of characters that keep the kids and teens coming back for more; think the Glee spin offs and the new teen series the Carrie Diaries that focuses on a younger Carrie Bradshaw (also apparently coming soon to a theater near you).

Are you looking for a tv or movie tie-in?  Look, too, at your manga collection.  Several manga series are or have been popular cartoons on the Cartoon Network.  Others are popular movies or anime series.  Think Yu-Gi-Oh, Naruto, and Bleach.  In fact, many libraries have great success having anime clubs.  Mesquite library has one with a blog.  Side note: there are some resources that discuss how to start an anime club at the MIT Anime Club and librarian and graphic novel guru Kat Kan has had several articles appearing in VOYA.

Of course nothing is a bigger book killer than a bad movie!  For every Harry Potter and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, there are the Blood and Chocolates (loved the book, hated the movie).

So why do we care about teen books being made into movies?

1.  Marketing Potential!
As soon as you hear that a book has been optioned into a movie, get the word out to your teens to generate interest in the book.  The thinking seems to be well, if they are going to make it into a movie it must be good.  As the movie films, share news stories to keep interest high.  A bad movie can kill a book, but the buzz generated while a movie is in production can boost interest so tap into that interest before the movie even comes out.

2.  Programming Potential!
As the release date for a movie approaches, create an exciting and fun program.  It doesn’t have to just be for big ticket movies like HP, Twilight or the Hunger Games.  They don’t always even have to be big, one time attendance affairs.  For the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, we passed a pair of old blue jeans among our branches and invited teens to come in and graffiti them.  Think of all the fun you can have with a Holes themed program, including a fun hole digging contest (just kidding on that one).  And with Hoot you could do some environmentally friendly crafts – a great tie-in for Earth Day.  They can also be a good basis for contests.  Here you are tapping into popular culture and your administrators see collection tie-ins – it’s win, win!

3.  Tie-in Potential!

Some series, such as Glee or Supernatural (or Buffy of old) will release tie-in titles.  As teens become invested in characters and storylines, the library can use this interest to promote recreational reading by providing access to tie-in titles.  Some of the older series still have a lot of pull, think Star Trek, Star Wars and interestingly enough Charmed it seems.  But there are a ton of series currently on TV that are based on popular teen books: Vampire Diaries, The Secret Circle, Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game.  Note: the Nine Lives of Chloe King has already been cancelled, which is too bad because I kind of liked it.

4.  Raising Your Coolness Factor Potential
Let’s face it, we are supposed to be information specialist and we need all the cool factor points we can get with our teen audience.  Knowing something before they know it proves to our audience that we are indeed information specialist – and that we are wicked cool.  So make sure you spend time perusing sites so you can surprise teens with what you know.  Check out places like comingsoon.net, popwatch at Entertainment Weekly, teen.com, aintitcoolnews (for sci fi and fantasy info) and perennial industry favorite VarietyMovie Insider is a site that talks about in production movies, shows trailers and posters and more, check it out.  Even IMDB has some information, including a calendar that looks at upcoming release dates.  I recommend checking it quarterly to plan your program and display calendar.

5.  Social Media Potential
Frequently we see librarians discussing how to successfully use a Facebook page or Twitter feed.  Look no further!  Sharing news of upcoming adaptations, pictures from the set, etc. can be a great way to utilize your social media page.  By doing this you achieve all the above goals and you keep in contact with your audience.  It can be as simple as one click – share the online news story – or you can develop the information into fun online contests. The site filmwise has a variety of fun online movie games, including the popular invisibles, that you can share with your teens.  Invisibles is a fun game that removes the person from a movie screenshot and asks you to identify the movie.  Remember, too, that your teen magazines and sites will often have popular culture trivia that you can share.  And you can always make your own, just allow yourself to get creative . . .


So even though we are ultimately trying to promote reading and our collections, the big and little screen can help us reach these goals.  Tap into that potential!

Next blog post, we will talk more specifically about some of the various teen titles adapted to film and television past and future.

Teen Issues: What does October 15th mean?

In Megan McCafferty’s dystopian world, everyone over the age of 18 is infertile due to a virus so teenage girls are paid to help bring new children into the world.  In the real world, teenage pregnancy is viewed much differently.  Popular Mtv shows 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom illustrate some of the complications in being a teenage mother, a topic often addressed in popular teen fiction.  But what happens when a teenager gets pregnant and decides either not to keep the baby and terminate the pregnancy or decides she does want to keep the baby and then loses the baby through miscarriage?

Most teen fiction focuses on a different scenario:  teens engage in sex, they get pregnant, they have baby and struggle.  Sometimes the teenage mom leaves and the teenage dad is left to take care of the baby, see First Part Last by Angela Johnson or Hanging on to Max by Margaret Bechard.  Sometimes the teens talk about getting an abortion or putting the baby up for adoption.  But often, the literature focuses on one or both parents struggling to raise a child on their own (sometimes with the help and support of their families).

And yet statistically we know that anywhere from 1 out of 5 to 1 out of 4 pregnancies ends in a loss.  And some babies are born sleeping, or stillborn.  So this has to be true for teen pregnancy, too.  About.com presents these statistics on teen pregnancy: 3/4 of a million teens become pregnant each year, 57% of these pregnancies result in birth, 29% of teen pregnancies are terminated and 14% end in miscarriage.

Many women carry the silent pain of miscarriage and stillbirth; but if it happens to you, you will start to hear the stories of women around you.  They will share with you about the child they lost and never knew.  They will tell you about how they wonder what that child would look like now, what his or her laugh would sound like, and so much more . . . It’s like miscarriage is a secret world that you don’t know much about until it happens to you and you get the grim invitation to join this secret, aching world.  But what happens to a pregnant teen who loses a baby in pregnancy, stillbirth or infant death?  Do her friends come out of the woodwork and begin to share their stories?  Do the adults in her life share their stories?

On the ABC Family show The Secret Life of an American Teenager, expectant couple Ben and Adrian’s baby was born sleeping.  This was amazing to me as it was the first time that I can recall a show dealing with subject of pregnancy loss in the life of teens. 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AL_rLJ7zWOk]

October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.  If you ever have the unfortunate event to work with a teenager who has lost a baby, know that this resource is out there.  Know, too, that they will go through all the same emotional stages of grief that any woman would go through when experiencing pregnancy loss.  Sometimes these emotions are complicated by guilt as they wrestled with whether or not they even wanted to keep the baby (also true of many women).  Know that their loss is real and painful.

There are many resources that you, as someone who may be put into a position of supporting a teen after loss, and your teen can turn to for support:

* Our Hope Place has a guide for helping someone with loss
* The blog Living Whole Again has a list of things to say (and not to say)
* There are places where teens share their stories of loss here, here, here and a poem here
* Here Oprah talks about her teen pregnancy loss
* And here is a good list of online sites that help those suffering from loss honor and remember their babies.

You probably know where your teen pregnancy books are in your collection, there are unfortunately not a lot of books dealing with teenage miscarriage and pregnancy loss.  However, they will find help in the nonfiction books dealing with miscarriage because regardless of age, it helps to read the stories of others.  Some nonfiction titles include Silent Grief, Empty Arms: Coping After Miscarriage, Grieving the Child I Never Knew and Our Stories of Miscarriage: Healing with Words.  In addition there is a good children’s book titles We Were Going to Have a Baby, But We Had an Angel instead by Pat Schweibert that may be comforting.  This book is actually written to comfort older siblings, but many find it comforting in itself.  Although not a good library book as it is a journal, you may recommend I’ll Hold You in Heaven Remembrance Book to those that it would be appropriate.  This is a journal that helps guide you through the emotions of the pregnancy and loss.

And thanks to all the teen librarians at the Yalsa-bk list, I have some teen fiction dealing with pregnancy loss that you can use for bibliotherapy:
A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd
Lullaby by Jane Orcutt
After by Amy Efaw
Jumping Off Swings by Johanna Knowles
My Life as a Rhombus by Varian Johnson
Newes from the Dead by Mary Hooper
Six Rules of Maybe by Deb Caletti
Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen
Plan B by Charnon Simon
Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts
Plain Truth by Jodi Piccoult
Mr. and Mrs. Bojo Jones by Ann Head

LibraryThing has a good list of books about teen pregnancy in general

One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is to acknowledge their loss, their baby.  Acknowledge their pain.  Let them walk in it and hold their hand.  For me, as I experienced my loss in 2006, reading the stories of others was essential to my healing.  I needed to know that I was not alone and that others had felt the various things that I felt.  I needed to know that you could get to the other side of this pain.  I needed the words on the pages to hold my heart and help me along on my journey.  I believe in the power of words to help and to heal and I found this to be especially true during this time.

One of the complications of teen pregnancy loss is this: everyone in her life will tell her it was probably for the best.  It is true that teen pregnancy has dramatic and often negative consequences in their life – we know that it affects their schooling and is likely to put them at a greater risk of poverty for example – and yet when they lose that pregnancy, when their baby dies, there are still strong emotional feelings associatied with that loss.  Regardless of what we as a society may think regarding teen pregnancy, that teenager’s life will never be the same.  They will always from that moment forward be a woman (or a man) who has lost a child.

The goal of October 15th is to take away the silent stigma of pregnancy and infant loss, to give those grieving a voice.  I hope this October 15th you will join me in raising awareness about pregnancy loss and miscarriage in general, but also in the life of teens.  If you do even one simple little thing, such as simply share the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day site on October 15th on your library FB page or website, you may just give a grieving teen a resource they need.

Dedicated to the memory of Casey Lee . . .