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Starting a Vampire Book Club, a guest post by Carrie (The Sunnydale Project Year 3)

Back when Edward Cullen was at his very sparkliest, I was teaching English at an all-girls high school. I have never seen anything like it. Spontaneous character debates broke out in class and my pro-Jacob leanings earned me some enemies (I make no apologies. He was WARM and could FIX THINGS). Whispers of “Team Edward” followed me down the hallways. Backpacks were heavy with books and my heart was light: kids were READING. 
 I do not want to bag on Twilight. It got kids to read, and that is an amazing and admirable thing. We should never shame anybody for reading whatever they damn well please, and the reason I wanted my students to go beyond Bella wasn’t that I thought Twilightwas a “bad book,” it was because I wanted them to realize that it wasn’t the ONLY book, that they could keep having that incredible experience of being immersed in another world, over and over again, for the rest of their lives.
I also wanted to give them more characters who could help them navigate their lives with confidence and courage. When I looked at the students in my class I saw smart, strong, funny, kick-ass young women who could change the world. I also saw vulnerable kids fending off endless online approaches by strange men and whose boyfriends demanded they get Brazilians before the big dance. (And that’s just the stuff I knew about.) They needed somebody fierce to help guide them.
So I gave them Buffy.
(Eventually.)
First, I started a vampire book club. It would be totes legit, I assured my skeptical colleagues: We would investigate vampire myths! We would explore the genre! We would move on to classic literature and soon the girls would be gushing about gothic novels instead of Edward’s abs…
Yeah, none of that really happened. 
Image from Muppet Wikia

They did read some new books, and a few even tackled Dracula. We discussed how vampire myths are tied to the Count on Sesame Street and we had a good time, but it never felt like enough. I was entertaining them, sure, but I wasn’t giving them any characters or ideas they could take away and hold close to bring out when they felt scared or unsure. I wondered about this in my three minutes of free time a week (#teacherlife) and decided I was being unrealistic. Maybe what I wanted to give them didn’t really exist – or maybe it wasn’t even mine to give.

We met during lunchtimes and after a few months the girls decided that watching some vampire videos would really “help with their understanding,” and, coincidentally, they just happened to have The Vampire Diariesright here.  
“No!” I said, desperately fighting to maintain control of my creation. “Come back tomorrow and we will watch the best show about vampires that ever has been, is, or will be.”
And that’s how my book club turned into a Buffy club.
None of the students had seen it before, and after a few “look at baby Booth” giggles they settled in. In fact, they were hooked. Once a week wasn’t enough for them anymore: soon they were knocking everyday on the staffroom door, eyes shining and hands outstretched, pleading for the next episode.
They cheered when Buffy told Angel that being stalked “isn’t exactly a big turn on for girls” and they cried when he lost his soul and Buffy realized when she would have to do to stop him. A lot of the references flew past them (New Zealand teenagers have never seen the softer side of Sears) but it didn’t matter: the characters and the themes were relatable and timeless. They got it. Buffy was in their heads and she’d be there, making bad puns and refusing to back down, whenever they needed a boost of confidence.
I left the classroom but stayed in town and I still run into the Buffy girls every now and again. One of them served me a coffee a year later and told me she and a few friends had pooled their money to buy all five seasons of Angel. At the New Zealand film festival screening of Much Ado About Nothing I waved across the room to a group of them, giddy with excitement and dressed to the nines in honor of Joss Whedon’s latest production.
Buffy is not a perfect character. She is not the “anti-Bella” or the answer to every teenage girl’s problems. Nothing is that simple. But showing teenagers a brave, flawed, kind, strong, ass-kicking female character canmake a difference. Those students probably don’t remember all the stuff I spouted in class about visual and verbal language features (even I have blocked most of those memories) – but they do remember Buffy.
My vampire book club (like so many things in life and teaching) didn’t quite turn out the way I thought it would. We didn’t read as many books as I’d hoped, and I certainly can’t prove I upped any test scores. But it is one of my absolute favorite teaching memories, and I will always be grateful that Buffy was there when my students and I really needed her. 


Meet our guest blogger, Carrie Boufard
Bio: I’m a Vermonter in New Zealand who spends my days working with teachers and librarians to build strong reading cultures in schools and get students excited about books. I spend my nights writing middle grade stories and drinking lots of coffee. I’m repped by Carrie Howland, which makes me a very lucky writer indeed. I’m jumping back into social media after a break (there was a whole baby/sleep deprivation thing) and I would love to connect with you on my blog, Twitter, or Goodreads.

A rock opera: when Twilight met the 80s (and info about Storify)

Yesterday I was hanging out with my friends on Twitter, and things got out of control.  Suddenly, we found ourselves writing a rock opera where our friends from Twilight break out into various songs from the 80s.  It went something like this . . .

[View the story “When Twilight met the 80s” on Storify]

Good times those were. I used Storify for the first time to capture the screen caps for this post to embed. What is Storify?

storify.com
Create stories using social media. Turn what people post on social media into compelling stories.

Although there are are some help tabs on Storify to help you navigate how to use it, I just dove right in and created my story. Since I hadn’t done the walk through, it would have been nice if some of the boxes were labelled or had a pop up tab that gave you a better understanding of what to do. But then, I guess I could have done the walk through tutorial. I am apparently like the stereotypical man who won’t read the directions while putting together the new computer desk.

All in all, Storify was quick and easy to use and did exactly what I wanted it to. You’ll definitely want to check it out because it is a fun and creative way to make stories using your various social media sites.  And as a bonus, it easily interacts and posts to your various social media sites.  Like Youtube, you can post your published story directly to your various social media sites or copy and paste an embed code.  Storify was named one of the 50 best websites for 2011.

What 80s song would you add to our rock opera – and who should sing it?