Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

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.

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