Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Sparking Summer Reading, a guest post by M.G. Hennessey


“That looks like work,” my son said skeptically, eyeing the copy of Catcher in the Rye that I was offering him.

“Are you kidding? You’re going to love this. Trust me, give it twenty pages. If you hate it, you can read something else,” I said (quite reasonably, I thought).

After emitting the standard teen heavy sigh, he took the book and slumped off to his room with it.

Getting teens to read at all is a challenge; getting them to read something other than dystopian fantasy romances, even more so. Every time we sit down with my son’s summer reading list I’m reminded of this, as his top picks are almost exclusively thrillers.

Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with reading a good thriller (I’m a huge fan myself), and as one of my friends who is a librarian said, getting them to read at all is half the battle. When I was fourteen, I spent a summer tearing through everything Agatha Christie had ever written. But as a parent, I want to make sure that my son also reads books that challenge him intellectually and broaden his world view. So how to make that happen?

The good news is that YA and MG social issues books are experiencing a bit of a renaissance right now. It was much easier to get my son to read The Hate U Give when he knew a movie version was coming out; same with Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda. But I can’t rely on every social issues book being made into a TV show or film, right?

Here are a few tricks that have made a difference:

Start a family book club. Sometimes it’s just me and the kids, and other times we manage to wrangle a larger circle of family members, including cousins who live on the opposite coast. It’s been a treat to revisit some of the classics I read when I was his age- and to discover some new titles about current issues that I probably wouldn’t have read otherwise. Plus, it’s become the older version of me reading them bedtime stories, and what’s not to love about that? It was fascinating to reread To Kill a Mockingbird as an adult. Due to the subject matter (opioid addiction), I was initially a little reluctant to dive into Mindy McGinnis’s novel Heroine; but reading it together elicited some of the most in-depth conversations about the dangers of addiction that our family has ever had.

Focus on a single issue. My son’s class studied the civil rights movement last year, and consequently he was interested in reading more books about civil rights both then and now. Thanks to that, getting him to read Brown Girl Dreaming and One Crazy Summer was relatively easy. After reading The Diary of Anne Frank, my daughter delved deep into other books about WWII and the Holocaust, including the excellent Code Name Verity and The Book Thief (both still two of my all-time favorite reads).

One of these, one of thoseWhen going through his summer reading list this year, I let my son choose one “fun” book for every more serious one he tackled. Mind you, I hate categorizing books this way, because it implies that social issues books can’t be fun (they can and should be – I know I certainly always try to make mine feel that way), and conversely that most YA fiction isn’t worthy of deeper discussion (much of it is). But I do think he’s less likely to develop analytical reading skills with books that have a dragon on the cover (ducks for cover).

Audiobooks. We have a couple of long car trips lines up this summer, and what better way to pass the time than with an audiobook the entire family can enjoy? I’m planning on introducing my kids to 1984 and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time en route to visiting relatives; and I’m bringing along copies of each book so that if they want to keep reading on their own, they’re able to.

So those are my tips for not only getting kids to read over the summer, but hopefully also encouraging them to dive into some meatier topics and texts. And who knows, this might spark up your summer reading too!

Meet M.G. Hennessey

M.G. Hennessey is the author of The Echo Park Castaways, a social issues book about four foster kids in L.A. who create their own found family. She also wrote The Other Boy, about a transgender boy and the challenges he faces long after transitioning. M.G. mentors teens at the Lifeworks program/LA LGBT Center, and volunteers as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for L.A. foster kids. She’s also the dean of Camp Transcend Family Camp. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.  She/Her/Hers

Website: www.mghennessey.com

Twitter: @mg_hennessey      

Instagram: @ m.g.hennessey

Facebook: @mghennesseyauthor

About The Echo Park Castaways

From the author of The Other Boy comes a poignant and heartfelt novel that explores what it means to be a family. Perfect for fans of Counting by 7s.

Nevaeh, Vic, and Mara are veterans of the Los Angeles foster care system. For over a year they’ve been staying with Mrs. K in Echo Park. Vic spends most of his time living in a dream world, Mara barely speaks, and Nevaeh is forced to act as a back-up parent. Though their situation isn’t ideal, it’s still their best home yet.

Then Child Protective Services places Quentin in the house, and everything is turned upside down. Nevaeh really can’t handle watching over anyone else, especially a boy on the autism spectrum. Meanwhile, Quentin is having trouble adjusting and attempts to run away.

So when Vic realizes Quentin just wants to see his mom again, he plans an “epic quest” to reunite them. It could result in the foster siblings getting sent to different group homes. But isn’t family always worth the risk?

ISBN-13: 9780062427694
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/02/2019

MakerSpace: Guitar Pick Jewelry

Because this year’s summer reading theme, Libraries Rock!, is music based, we have been trying to find ways to make our various MakerSpace activities music oriented. Luckily for us, we have a guitar pick punch that hasn’t been used very much in our space. Outside of the obvious – you can use it to make actual guitar picks – you can also use it to make guitar pick jewelry!

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You can do a variety of things with a guitar pick: decoupage it, glam it up with glitter and rhinestones, or you can engrave them. Since we also have a Silhouette Cameo, we will definitely be adding engraving guitar picks and turning them into jewelry for one of our MakerSpace activity stations. Your mileage may vary, because you don’t have to do very much to make cool guitar pick jewelry.

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Supplies:

  • Guitar pick punch (available for purchase at Amazon)
  • Plastic (can be purchased or you can use things like invalid credit cards and foot take out containers)
  • Small hole punch (1/16 for smaller holes)
  • Various jewelry making supplies and findings like o rings, cord, and pliers
  • A laptop and Silhouette Cameo for engraving (see section on engraving for less expensive methods)

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If you want to engrave your guitar pick, you can use hand held engraving tools or a Silhouette Cameo with an etching tool.

Making Your Guitar Pick

Making your guitar pick is simple and quick. You can buy a variety of colorful plastic strips online or you can use plastic found around the house. I’ve even used old bank and credit cards, making sure not to include any of my name or number in a way that can be seen. If you’re going to do something like decoupage your pick, you can even use plastic from take out food containers.

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After you punch out your guitar pick, you’ll want to use the small hole punch at one end of the guitar pick to make a hole so you can attach it to your jewelry with an o ring.

Engraving Your Guitar Pick

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You can buy an etching tool for the Silhouette Cameo which you can use to engrave your guitar pick. You’ll want to follow these instructions, with a slight modification. I suggest choosing the highest level of settings, including making 10 passes. We tried a variety of settings but found that making 10 passes really helped to make sure that you could see the engraving.

You can also do DIY engraving using a hand tool, which is less expensive. They have instructions at Instructables for this. There are also suggested ways of engraving at WikiHow.

Making Your Jewelry

With your guitar pick now ready to go, you can make whatever kind of jewelry you want to make following basic jewelry making principles. Necklaces and ear rings work best because of the size of the guitar pick. And of course, they make cool key rings.

The cost, time and skill for this project depends on how elaborate you make your jewelry, which makes it very customizable.

Thoughts on Summer Reading Lists from a Public Librarian (and a Mom)