Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Friday finds: December 13, 2019

This Week at TLT

Take 5: TV Shows to Inspire Teen Programs

20 2020 YA Books To Have On Your Radar

A Brief Discussion of What It’s Like to Be a “Military Brat” in Youth Literature

20 2020 Middle Grade Books To Have On Your Radar

Around the Web

Remembering Legendary Puppeteer Caroll Spinney

Zipcode Destiny: The Persistent Power Of Place And Education

Friday Finds: December 6, 2019

This Week at TLT

Escaping from Reality Shows us How to Change It, a guest post by Ryan La Sala

Cindy Crushes Programming: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Escape Room

Penguin Random House Spring 2020 Showcase

Take 5: YA Lit for Teens That Love to Bake

Sunday Reflections: Teachers, Please Stop Giving Kids Homework Over School Breaks

Around the Web

‘We Wanted Our Patrons Back’ — Public Libraries Scrap Late Fines To Alleviate Inequity

The Problem with Picture Book Monkeys

Here’s What’s Happening in the American Teenage Bedroom

How Dyslexia is a Different Brain, Not a Disease

Friday Finds: November 29, 2019

This Week at TLT

RevolTeens: The Lies We Tell and the Teens We Hurt

New books alert: An alternative history fairytale, a romance, middle school friendship, and more!

If You Like The Good Place, Read This

Crash Course: Recent poetry books for younger readers

Cindy Crushes Programming: DIY Lip Scrubs

Around the Web

Active Shooter Drills May Not Stop A School Shooting — But This Method Could

Pennsylvania Overhauls Its Child Sex Abuse Laws

Report: High Schoolers’ Lack of Digital Literacy Skills Is “Troubling”

Many Native Americans Can’t Get Clean Water, Report Finds

Addressing dyslexia is key to reducing criminal recidivism

Otherization of Sikh Women, a guest post by Jasmin Kaur

Today we are honored to host this moving guest post by author Jasmin Kaur.

Eyes wide with apprehension, lips parted with a sudden inhale, it was the same look of shock I’d grown used to. On this particular occasion, the white woman’s fingers furiously typed on her phone, perhaps to a friend. Her gaze bounced to each of my friends’ turbans and beards and finally landed on me. I had heard that Australia could often be inhospitable to immigrants and people of colour, but I didn’t think that in Melbourne, one of its most diverse cities, people would display their discomfort at the sight of Sikhs so unabashedly. Among the dozen of us waiting to be seated at the restaurant, I was the only one from out of town.

As painfully familiar as the woman’s wide-eyed glance was the feeling of otherness. Of my heart thumping with a sudden desire to be invisible. I turned to my friend, whispering that we were being watched.  Then, my friend did something that I was too emotionally exhausted to do: she asked the woman why she was staring.

“I recognized Jasmin Kaur. I think I follow her on Instagram.”

After we had a thoughtful conversation with the woman and my friends commented on how wonderful it was that this reader recognized me half away across the world from home, my mind was still spinning. I’d had many emotionally intense run-ins with strangers before, but never anything like this. Never a person staring at me in public with nothing but a kind word to say.

When I chose to tie a dastaar (Sikh turban) back in high school, I knew it would come with attention. In fact, this identity was made to draw attention. When the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, formalized our visible identity, the dastaar was an important element in rendering Sikhs unique and distinguishable from members of other faith communities. As a child, I distinctly remember sitting on the fir-green carpet of our local gurdwara (Sikh place of worship) listening to a speaker explain the story of why it was so important for us to stand out. When the tenth Guru’s father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, attained martyrdom in defence of a persecuted group of Kashmiri Hindus, Guru Gobind Singh questioned whether many Sikhs were present to witness the event. No one was sure because no one could tell who, exactly, was Sikh. It was in this moment that the guru declared that they would make Sikhs so distinct that even in a crowd of thousands, we would be unmissable.

There is beauty in being unmissable, in being so in love with your sovereignty as a kaur (Sikh woman) that you declare it with a crown. But there is also struggle. Each time I step out of the comfort of my own home, I enter a world that views my body as an artifact. By this, I mean that I am constantly on display to be studied, critiqued and openly discussed by strangers, often as though I am not even there. As though I am an object that can’t talk back. When I step into public spaces, I constantly move as though I am bracing myself for a tidal wave. The glares, the stares, the hateful comments exist within the memory of my tense muscles, my thumping heart, my lowered gaze that is too tired to observe which strangers happen to be ogling today.

I grew up in Abbotsford, a large-enough city in BC, Canada with a strong Punjabi population. White people are familiar with us. They see us every single day. And yet, I seem to exist here as a perpetual surprise. The other day, after a long stretch of writing from my bedroom, I decided to switch things up and work from a coffee shop. As soon as I swung open the door, two tables of middle-aged and elderly white people halted their conversations to stare at me. Eight people, to be exact. Their eyes followed me to my table, their necks twisting to keep up with my movements, until I sat down and they could finally let me go.

This type of staring is a common occurrence throughout my day. I’ve gotten it since I entered middle school when I began to tie a ramaal, a small headscarf that is much more subtle than a dastaar. Sometimes when people stare, I’ll smile. This will result in them either smiling back in embarrassment or looking away in surprise. As a woman of colour and a Sikh woman specifically, I don’t think I owe strangers a constantly positive, pleasant, model-minority attitude, though. Just like you, I could be having a bad day. Just like you, I could be caffeine-deprived, exhausted and just looking to quietly reach my next destination. I don’t need to be on all the time, maintaining my best “customer-service” attitude for strangers who consider me nothing more than “the other”. I don’t need to prove my humanity to white people. I don’t owe you a smile for your stares.

The stares and glares are irritating, but they are definitely not the worst. I’ve had more than my fair share of overtly racist run-ins with strangers, from local drivers shouting “terrorist!” at me as I walk down the street, to train passengers in Australia swearing at me for sitting next to them to store-clerks in Spain serving the white people standing behind me in line and simply pretending I don’t exist. These experiences add up, they pile one on top of the other and pack themselves at the back of my mind. They don’t make me want to remove my dastaar but they do remind me of the violence that comes from non-conformity in a world that seeks to synthesize everyone into a singular image.

“Usually when people stare at me in public spaces, it’s because of my Sikh identity.”

When I shared this with the white woman at the restaurant, she was flustered. Shocked to hear that I could be treated so badly by strangers. The two of clearly experienced the world through very different eyes.

I was quiet when we finally sat down to eat, trying to make sense of this strange concoction of emotions that arose from the interaction. Like many people of colour who experience microaggressions and overt racism in public spaces, my experiences have left me with a sense of guardedness. I don’t feel bad about it, though: I have more than enough reason to be anxious.   

Jasmin Kaur is the author of the YA poetry & prose release When You Ask Me Where I’m Going (October 1; HarperCollins), her debut book of poetry & prose that tells the story of 18-year old Kiran as she flees a history of trauma in Punjab and raises her daughter, Sahaara, while living undocumented in North America. Kaur’s writing is a powerful salve and formidable reclamation of self-acceptance and love in a world that often ignores, erases, or ridicules women of color and undocumented immigrants.

Crafting Community: Fire Me Up Studios by Stacey Shapiro

I’m back with another Crafting Community post. This time, we were hosted by the wonderful artisans of Fire Me Up Studios in my library’s town.  A pottery studio along the lines of Paint Your Heart Out if you’ve ever been to one, they also teach pottery classes along with painting and other art forms. Crafting Community is funded thanks to the Union County Grant, a local grant that has provided the funds for my library to be able to pay our artists. Since this particular program required equipment, it was an outreach opportunity to host the program at Fire Me Up Studios.

We worked in their mudroom, a room in the back of the studio where there are rows of potter’s wheels waiting for the students. We had six students sign up, and a friendly potter from Fire Me Up led the class. She taught us how to literally throw it on to the potter’s wheel so it would stick and be safe, and then demonstrated the several steps we needed to turn our clay into a usable bowl, cup, or pot. My hands were full of clay, so I couldn’t take process photos, but I can recreate what we were taught.

Each student threw a slab of clay we had warmed up by rolling into a ball onto our potter’s wheel. We shaped it into a cone, and then pushed it down into a hockey puck-like shape. This is where working with the clay became more difficult and the instructor had to move around to each of our potter’s wheels to help us individually. The more you work with the clay, the more fragile it becomes as well and we had to be careful not to overwork it. On my second piece, I dug down too hard to make an impression into the clay and ended up with a piece that had no bottom, which is far worse than a soggy bottom on the Great British Baking Show. The instruction, however, was great, and each participant ended up with two pieces. Fire Me Up let us choose our paint colors and we would be back to pick them up in three weeks’ time after two firings and painting.

Teens were eager to learn the new skill and  were mostly receptive during the class. Although there was a lot of confusion during the more complicated steps of pottery making, each teen made something that they will be able to pick up from the studio and take home. Offering classes like this outside of what they might be able to do in art classes provides new and exciting opportunities for our patrons, and hopefully creates a lasting relationship between the library and local businesses.

The only unfortunate thing in this class is that it isn’t easily replicable in other libraries. However, if you have a local pottery studio, make sure to reach out to them! We are, as always, grateful to Union County for the grant that has made this program possible.



Stacey Shapiro is a teen librarian in Cranford, New Jersey, a cat mom, and a BTS fan. She was a 2019 ALA Emerging Leader and is currently serving on the Printz 2020 committee. When she has any free time, she’s playing Breath of the Wild on the Switch.

Friday Finds: November 8, 2019

This Week at TLT

Crash Course: Recent picture books on community, caring, inclusivity, and connections

Cindy Crushes Programming: Fairy Tale Hairbows

Sick Kids in Love: A Look at Chronic Illness in the Life of Teens

Library Events That Bring Stories to Life, a guest post by L M Preston

Healing Is Not a Journey We Take Alone, a guest post by Bree Barton

Around the Web

There’s now an e-reader just for kids, and it misses what children love about books

Screen Use Tied to Children’s Brain Development

Most Of Nation’s Top Public Universities Aren’t Affordable For Low-Income Students

As Boycotts Mount, Macmillan CEO Defends Library E-book Embargo

Friday Finds: November 1, 2019

This Week at TLT

Dyslexia Awareness Month Wrap-Up: Spoiler Alert, there is no wrap up because there is no magical cure

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Spring 2020 Showcase: Rescue dogs, a family curse, the Paralympics, deadly magic, and more!

RevolTeens: Teens Speaking Out and Raising Awareness for Mental Health, by Christine Lively

On Your Radar: Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

Book Review: The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah, a guest post by Sanya

Dyslexia Awareness Month: In Which I Interview My Child with Dyslexia

Around the Web

Reading Scores on National Exam Decline in Half the States

The 30 Best Young Adult Novels of the 2010s

‘One Of Us Is Lying’: Peacock’s YA Mystery Drama Pilot Based On Book Sets Cast

Giving Schools — And Students — The Tools They Need In The Fight To Save The Planet

For Young People With Psychosis, Early Intervention Is Crucial

Friday Finds: October 25, 2019

This Week at TLT

New Books Alert: Reimaginings, romances, thrillers, and more!

Dyslexia Awareness Month: Tips from an Educator on Helping Students with Dyslexia Succeed

Water, water, everywhere, a guest post by London Shah

Dyslexia Awareness Month: Dyslexic—and Bilingual? a guest post by Laura Rueckert

Dyslexia Awareness Month: Dyslexia from a Teen POV, a guest post by teen blogger Lauren

Around the Web

New Jersey school district proposes banning students with lunch debt from field trips, prom

DeVos Held In Contempt Of Court; Ed Department Fined $100,000 In Student Loan Case

Wisconsin School Breaks Up Lunchtime Cliques With Assigned Seating

A high school athlete ran her personal best but was disqualified for her hijab

Dyslexia and Working Memory Go Hand in Hand—How to Help Students Remember More

Friday Finds: October 11, 2019

This Week at TLT

Book Review: By Any Means Necessary by Candice Montgomery

Dyslexia Awareness Month: Books Featuring Main Characters with Dyslexia, a discussion and a book list

Post-It Reviews: Graphic Novels Galore!

Confessions of a Dyslexic Word Nerd, By Amanda Hosch

Dyslexia Awareness Dashboard: All our Dyslexia posts and references in one place to help us all better serve youth with dyslexia

Around the Web

School Districts Sue Juul, Saying Student Vaping Drains Resources

Friday Finds: October 4, 2019

This Week at TLT

With Her Nose Stuck in a Book, a guest post by Jessica Burkhart

Cindy Crushes Programming: DIY Alcohol Sharpie Tiles

Graphic Novels for Middle Grade Readers, a contemporary reading list

Dyslexia Awareness Month: Providing a Variety of Formats is an Access Issue

How Libraries Can Better Serve Youth with Dyslexia, an Infographic

Book Review: Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month, so let’s get started

What to Read if You Like Hadestown the Musical, by Cindy Shutts

Around the Web

Analysis: There’s mounting evidence that expanding Medicaid made people healthier

Hiring Teachers of Color Is Just the First Step. Here’s How to Keep Them

Support for Toxic Stress of Poverty Most Important Learning Tool for Kids in Need

Fort Worth Public Library Goes Fine-Free

Sesame Street Is Jumping to HBO Max