Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Cindy Crushes Programming: DIY Wizard of OZ Necklaces

Supplies:

Our library had a series of programs that were themed around the Wizard of Oz. I worked on coming up with craft I could make when I saw my friend, Andrea Sowers, post on her Twitter account a necklace craft she had made. That’s when I realized that what I wanted to do was to make a pendant necklace.

I talked to my coworkers who loved jewelry making and asked Andrea a couple questions about how she made her necklace. I then combined everyone’s contributions to make my own process, which I have outlined below.

Step 1: Print out small images that you want to use in the pendants. Remember they need to be able to be cut in a one-inch circle.

Step Two: If you want to have glitter glue in the image, make sure to tell the teens to use very little because you want the glitter glue to dry before you attach the round cabochon. I used a tiny bit of red glitter glue for the Ruby Red Slippers. Others used silver for Glinda’s wand or green for the Emerald City. I used a toothpick to make sure that I made the glitter glue attach well.

Step three: Take the round cabochon and put a layer of diamond crystal on it and attach the image. Use a toothpick to smooth it out. Roll the toothpick on the back of your picture like a rolling pin to release any air and help it stay flat. Wait for it to dry before staring the next step.

Step four: Use the e6000 glue and put it on the front of the pendant tray. You will want to put your dried round cabochon with the image attached on the tray. I would press it gently. Let it dry completely before wearing.

Final Thoughts: This craft turned out great. I really enjoyed it and I am doing a Disney pendant craft in April. I would have gotten longer necklace cords, because people have different neck sizes and not everyone likes having a tight necklace.

Cindy Shutts, MLIS

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Cindy is passionate about teen services. She loves dogs, pro-wrestling, Fairy tales, mythology, and of course reading. Her favorite books are The Hate U Give, Catching FIre, The Royals, and everything by Cindy Pon. She loves spending times with her dog Harry Winston and her niece and nephew. Cindy Shutts is the Teen Services Librarian at the White Oak Library District in IL and she’ll be joining us to talk about teen programming. You can follow her on Twitter at @cindysku.

#MHYALit: The Best Way to Erase the Stigma of Mental Health – Talk About It!

Today, as part of the Mental Health in YA Lit Discussion (#MHYALit), guest Deanna Cabinian is discussing the importance of talking about mental health in order to help erase the stigma.

You can read all the #MHYALit posts here or click on the #MHYALit tag.

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Recently I had the pleasure of going to a book signing where I met YA authors Jennifer Niven and Kathleen Glasgow. The thing I love about these ladies is they aren’t afraid to go there when it comes to mental health issues. Ms. Niven talked about Finch having bipolar disorder in All the Bright Places and Ms. Glasgow talked about the self-harm Charlie, the main character of her novel Girl in Pieces, struggles with. As I sat there listening to their talk, I thought, this never would have happened when I was sixteen. There were no books like this when I was a teenager; if there were I never heard about them. I thought it was too bad these novels hadn’t come out ten or fifteen years ago when I really could have used them.

One of my very close family members has struggled with OCD, bipolar disorder, and depression—basically the trifecta. I never used to tell people about it, though, and hid my own family’s issues for a long time, almost three decades, because I worried about what people might think. What would they say? Would they judge my family members differently? Would they think I was sick—that these conditions were catching? Would they think we were all freaks?

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When I was twenty-six years old I pulled my two closest coworkers into a conference room (they would later attend my wedding) and told them about what my family had been through and what we were currently dealing with. I just spewed everything in a rush without taking a breath. It was a three-minute summary of what life had been like for the past ten years.

“Everyone knows someone with mental health issues,” my friend said. “It’s not a big deal.” If that was true, though, then why didn’t we talk about it? Why didn’t we talk about how hard it is to see someone go through that? How we spend hours worrying and wondering, are they okay?

There’s always been so much shame surrounding mental illness, to the point that sometimes people wait years to get help. They don’t want to admit they have a problem, that their mind is behaving in ways they can’t control. This is why books like All the Bright Places and Girl in Pieces are so important. They get people talking. They tell people they are not alone. That they are not freaks. They tell people it’s okay to talk about it.

The good news is now people are starting to talk about it en masse. Talking about it is the only way to get loved ones the help they need. It’s also the only way to make a dent in the stigma.

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Do you want to write a guest post and talk about YA lit, teens and mental health? Contact one of us, we’d love to talk with you.

About the Author

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Deanna Cabinian has worked in radio, television, and magazine publishing, but her greatest passion is writing. A graduate of Northern Illinois University, she has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a Master’s degree in sport management. Her debut contemporary YA novel, One Night, was released on September 5. Find her online at deannacabinian.com.

Back to School: How to support and respect LGBTQIA+ students

This time of the year means school is back in session, or nearly back in session, for many of us. It’s a good time for a reminder of how to support and respect LGBTQIA+ teens in classrooms and libraries, as well as be reminded of a few great resources. Obviously all of this goes for all people of all ages, but for a lot of queer teens who may be dreading heading back to school, it’s extra important. I know teachers, librarians, and others who work with teens are there to encourage and support all teens and are already aware of these issues and resources, but it never hurts to have a quick and easy list to be able to reference and pass along.

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Have other suggestions of resources or reminders? Add them in the comments!

Last year, The Chronicle of Higher Education had this great video post, ‘Ask Me’: What LGBTQ Students Want Their Professors to Know.

This Mashable post, 5 accidentally transphobic phrases allies use — and what to say instead, is a good quick reminder of how much our words matter, too.

For more on words, check out this American Psychological Association Psychology Benefits Society post, Stop Saying “That’s So Gay!”: 6 Types of Microaggressions That Harm LGBTQ People and, on Buzzfeed, this post, 19 LGBT Microaggressions You Hear On A Daily Basis.

Are you familiar with the National School Climate Survey? From their site: “The 2013 National School Climate Survey(pdf) is GLSEN’s 8th biennial report on the school experiences of LGBT youth in schools, including the in-school resources that support LGBT students’ well-being, the extent of the challenges that they face at school, and insights into many other aspects of LGBT students’ experiences. The survey has consistently indicated that a safer school climate directly relates to the availability of LGBT school-based resources and support, including Gay-Straight Alliances, inclusive curriculum, supportive school staff, and comprehensive anti-bullying policies.” In this November 2014 TLT post, I summarize many of the main findings. The 2015 National School Climate Survey report will be released in Fall 2016!

While you’re looking at TLT, also check out this GLTBQ YA Resources for Building a Collection and Supporting Teens post. From there you can explore links on reading lists, blogs and Tumblrs to follow, resources, hotlines, and more. Two essential blogs to check out for reading recommendations, reviews, and great overall discussions by and about LGBTQIA+ people and issues are Gay YA and LGBTQ Reads. You can easily go spend a few hours poking around both sites—and they would be hours very well spent.

Campus Pride. From their site: “Campus Pride serves LGBTQ and ally student leaders and campus organizations in the areas of leadership development, support programs and services to create safer, more inclusive LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities. It exists to develop, support and give “voice and action” in building future LGBTQ and ally student leaders.”

Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals. From their site: “The combined vision and mission of the Consortium is to achieve higher education environments in which lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, faculty, staff, administrators, and alumni have equity in every respect. Our goals are to support colleagues and develop curriculum to professionally enhance this work; to seek climate improvement on campuses; and to advocate for policy change, program development, and establishment of LGBT Office/Centers.”

HRC Welcoming Schools. From their site: “HRC Welcoming Schools is a comprehensive approach to creating respectful and supportive elementary schools with resources and professional development to embrace family diversity, create LGBTQ-inclusive schools, prevent bias-based bullying and gender stereotyping, and support transgender and gender-expansive students.”

At Teaching Tolerance, a Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, check out this post, Best Practices: Creating an LGBT-inclusive School Climate. From their site: “It all starts with awareness. Often educators are unsure how to support their LGBT students in a meaningful way. These best practices were compiled to give school leaders the knowledge they need to create a climate in which their most vulnerable students feel safe and valued. Through inclusive policies and nurturing practices, administrators, counselors and teachers have the power to build an educational environment that is truly welcoming to all students.”

TPiB: It’s Shark Week!

Shark Week is my favorite weeks of the year. I’m a little bit obsessed with sharks. Not in a I would want to see one up close in personal in real life way, just in a they are totally cool like dinosaurs, aliens and robots way. I dive into Shark Week every year. See what I did there, cheesy pun totally intended. And I  can not wait for Sharknado 4. I have Jaws saved on my DVR and I watch it regularly. I am all about Shark Week!

So I was totally excited to learn that YA author Martha Brockenbrough – she’s more than a YA author, but that’s how I know her – was writing a Shark Week companion book for the Discovery Channel. (Side note: If you haven’t read THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH yet you should totally fix that.)

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“They do have an enemy, and it is us.” – page 26

To be honest, I loved this book. It has great colored pictures of sharks, which is what I need in a shark book. It also has many interesting (and colorful) fact pages, like a section on Shark Myths: Busted and Weirdest Shark Names (Lollipop Catshark is my favorite). So even though I referenced Jaws earlier, you should know that Jaws did a lot of harm to sharks. They have even had some Shark Week specials that covered this topic, and Brockenbrough has a brief section in her book about this. This is part of a section on inaccurate movie portrayals and sharks in stories. And yes, Sharknado is mentioned. And as we are in the midst of the 13th month of the hottest temperatures on record, I found the section on what climate change means for sharks interesting.

I’ve also been thinking of way we can have fun with Shark Week in our Teen MakerSpace.

Shark Buttons!

As you may have heard me say, fingerprint buttons have proven very popular for us here at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County. So I wanted to see if I could make a shark one.

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And after I wrote Jaws on this button, I thought, “I wonder if I could recreate the Jaws poster – which is awesome – into a button!”

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I think I did a fairly decent job, though to be honest it took me several tries.

There are some other great books that you can add to Shark Week to do a display.

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More Shark Week Activities

And from a previous post, here are some other activities you can do. Yes, I literally copied and pasted this from a previous post. But I thought it would be helpful to have all the shark week ideas in one place. You’re welcome.

Shark Jawbone Paracord Bracelet

This is not actually made with shark jawbones, in case that needs to be said. But here you can make a paracord bracelet, which is cool, that has shark in the name.

Fish Prints

Gyotaku is the Japenese art of fish printing. Sharks eat fish, plus these are cool, so I think they work. The Mr. was an art major at college and I have been to an event where they did this and it was fun. They used real fish, but you can buy kits that use plastic fish which you may want to purchase if you have an aversion to leaking fish guts, which some people do. You basically need something to print on, say a blank t-shirt. You need the fish, real or not, and you need printing ink – the ink used in printmaking, though I guess you could use paint if you would like – paint rollers, pans to pour the ink into, tablecloths, etc. You ink, or paint the fish, and slap it down on your t-shirt to transfer it. Then you get a glorious fish print. Click on the Fish Prints heading above for better directions.

Under Sea Aquariums

There are a lot of ways you can create some type of an undersea aquariums. If you have a blank wall to decorate, you could have your tweens and teens create one here AND decorate your library, it’s what we call win/win. You could use simple things like butcher paper, craft paper, pipe cleaners, beads, etc. Have them do this in your children’s area, put out a display of both fish AND back to school books and put together some punny saying about going back to SCHOOL. Because, you know, fish groups are called a school of fish.

Or you do an upcycle craft using baby food jars or empty water bottles to make little aquarium. You can buy plastic sharks in bulk to make this happen. Instructions can be found here: http://blog.chickabug.com/2012/03/how-to-make-under-the-sea-snow-globe-aquariums.html.

Shark Origami

I think the title kind of says it all. Click the link for instructions.

Crayon Resist Whale Shark

I’ve always liked crayon resist painting. And, there’s science involved! I admit this is definitely for say the Tween set more so than your teens, but if you have stations and an awesome shark movie playing in the background – may I suggest Jaws? It’s covered under Movie Licensing USA – they may enjoy it.

Clothespin Shark

Yes, again, this one seems youngish. It was very hard to find older shark themed craft ideas. BUT, it’s back to school time and smack some magnets onto these bad boys and you could make a cool Sharknado themed locker. Don’t forget to add some blood!

Shark themed party outline at SheKnows

40 plus Shark Week activities at A Day in Our Shows

This site has 40 Shark Week crafts including making a cool shark themed watermelon, papercrafts and more.

And here is a cool shark themed manicure.

And here is a YouTube tutorial on how to build a Lego Shark

Basically, my thoughts are this:

  • Do a book display
  • Have Jaws playing in the background
  • Have food – it can be something simple like gummy fish/sharks or something elaborate like the watermelon shark
  • Have a few craft stations set up
  • Get out your smart phone and make Vine video of tweens & teens trying to do the dun dun, dun dun, dun dun dun dun theme music from Jaws. Or reciting some of its most famous lines: “We’re going to need a bigger boat.”
  • If you really want to get fancy, set up a photo booth station with shark fins and other fun beach items

Scenes from a Teen MakerSpace Open House

Yesterday in celebration of The National Week of Making, we officially introduced our Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (OH) to our community by hosting an open house. Our Teen MakerSpace is normally only open to teens ages 12 through 18, but we wanted to let the public know what we are doing with (and for) their teens, so we spent the day making with our community.

The Set Up

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We spent the better part of the last 2 weeks getting prepared. I designed and ordered cool TMS (Teem MakerSpace) backpacks to hand out. We made logos to put on water bottles. We made lists and checked them twice. We bought supplies. We made signage. We organized. We recruited. We stressed. And then we celebrated.

The Welcome Table

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Teens could enter to win a Maker Kit and we handed out our backpacks.

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A teen volunteers at the TMS Open House welcome table

The backpacks proved to be incredibly popular

The backpacks proved to be incredibly popular

The Activities

Because our Teen MakerSpace is small, we held our event on two floors. Some activities were upstairs in the TMS, but many were downstairs in the large meeting rooms to accommodate a greater number of people.

For every activity we do, we made sure to have a variety of books available on the various topics for our guests. In addition, we made sure and included some higher tech making with more arts and crafts, in part to accommodate the large number of anticipated guests without totally destroying our yearly budget, but also because we have learned through the course of the last six months of being open that our teens like to do arts and crafts just as much as they like to get their hands on technology.

String Art

We just discovered string art. Actually, it came about because my assistant director had a HUGE amount of craft string in her basement that she handed to me and I have never been good at making friendship bracelets so I needed a way to use these. Seriously, I have always found friendship bracelets hard to make.

Supplies: Foam core board, straight or push pins, templates, string.

Note: We found it easier to glue the pins in place using a hot glue gun.

Glue your pins and place and just string it up. It’s time consuming, but everyone was happy with their completed projects.

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A butterfly made by The Teen

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A string art heart in process

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She was very excited by her completed project. Also note how she filled in the background to make a complete art project.

Lego Fun

The best part of all our Lego fun was the Rube Goldberg machine that we created with the help of a Klutz Lego Chain Reactions kit.

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A teen tinkers with Lego

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Another teen tinkers with Lego

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The amazing Lego contraption made with the Klutz Lego Chain Reaction kit

And here’s our Lego Chain Reaction in action.

Shrinky Dink Jewelry

I was surprised by how many teens asked, “What are Shrinky Dinks?” Honestly, introducing them to Shrinky Dinks was the greatest community service we could provide.

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This necklace was designed in honor of a video game. The charm apparently represents the character in the game’s soul. Bonus points if you know the game.

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Another fine necklace. Teens really liked to spell out their names in Shrinky Dink charms.

Post It Note Art

I am obsessed with Sharpie’s. Even more so since we got this cool Sharpie art book in our Maker Collection (more on this soon). So we thought a simple activity to do would be to create a Sharpie Post It Note Gallery. This turned out to be both incredibly fun and extremely popular.

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The Post It Note Art Gallery

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I asked someone to draw me a Tardis. I got two!

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The Post It Note Art Gallery with filters

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Teen drawing Post It Note Art

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More Post It Note art

3D Pens

Our 3D pens have proven to be very popular. In fact, they go so much use that we keep breaking them, which is not awesome. But here are our pens in action.

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A 3D creation in process

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More 3D artwork in process

Coloring Stations

You may have heard, but teen and adult coloring is all the rage. My co-worker hosts a monthly teen and adult coloring night and they get around 40 people at each event, so it was a no brainer for me to include a coloring station.

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The coloring station: We made bookmarks with templates we found in the book Words to Live By (Dawn Nicole Warnaar)

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A completed bookmark

Final Thoughts

It was a lot of work, but completely worth it. Our event was open from Noon until 7 PM and we were exhausted at the end. BUT it was so much fun and we enjoyed seeing all the cool creations.

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We are still loving our fingerprint art buttons!

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A teen creating something with duct tape

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Rainbow Loom and Post It Note art in action

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Exploring the Teen MakerSpace

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From the outside looking in to the Teen MakerSpace

Sunday Reflections: Saying Goodbye to My Book Club Minions

sundayreflections1I’m down to the last few days at the library. In a few weeks, we move 90 miles away to just outside of St. Paul. I’ve been ready to move for a long time. A looooong time. But as ready as I am to go, I’m not ready—not even a little bit—to leave behind my library minions.

 

 

APOLLOIn 2010, after a few years of being home with my son, Callum, I decided I was ready to go back to work. I’d been a children’s librarian before staying home, and really wanted to get back into a library. When a position opened up for a media para at the high school closest to my house, I applied. I was thrilled to find out, once I started working, that I got to do pretty much all of the librarian things. I got to order books, create displays, weed books, help teachers, do book talks and library tours, and check books in and out. I was pretty much left alone (my favorite way to work) and loved getting to be around teenagers all day. Before long, word got out that I actually read YA, knew how to recommend books, and that I respected teenagers. At first, it was just a few kids who hung around all the time (shout-out to Naimo, Nimo, D’Shawn, and Ryuda). But before long, my desk with thronged with teenagers hanging out all day. I ended up working at that library for three years. Most of my day was spent with teenagers hanging around and chatting with me, trading book recs, and listening to problems. I loved every minute of it.

 

Then my dad was killed in a car accident. And I spent 11 months as the executor of an incredibly messy, contentious estate. And I was in a constant state of verge-of-nervous-breakdown. I was so grateful for the teenagers distracting me all day long, but the endless work of settling the estate was so much. Too much. And, of course, there was the whole “holy crap, life is fleeting” thing that happens. And while I adored my library minions, that adoration was not enough to keep me at the school I was at. So I quit. I wanted to spend more time with my kid. I didn’t want him to go to daycare every day after school. I didn’t want to come home from work grumbling about the increasing irritations of my workplace. I had gone as long as I could saying to myself, “But I stay at this job for the kids. I’m needed here.” It wasn’t enough anymore.

 

bookclub3I wasn’t entirely abandoning my minions. My second year at the high school, I had worked with some of the public librarians to start a teen advisory board at the downtown library. For a very long time, that board consisted solely of kids from my high school. It grew to include teens and young adults from other area schools, and to include homeschooled kids, and unschooled kids. It was diverse, inspiring, and a great way for me to stay in touch with everyone. Also there was Facebook. And texting. And meeting up for coffee. It wasn’t the same, but it was something.

 

After two years at home, I got antsy to be in a library again. While I was home, I’d certainly kept busy. I wrote for VOYA, SLJ, and The Horn Book. I started working for Teen Librarian Toolbox. I did lots of random freelance stuff, the biggest project of which was writing supplemental curriculum material for a textbook company (sounds boring, but it totally was not). I wrote a novel. And revised it. And revised it again. And once more.

 

BOOKCLUBSo when a long-term sub job opened up at the public library, and that job also involved getting to do all the teen programming, I jumped on it. I liked the people who would be my supervisors, having worked with them on the teen advisory board. I liked the other staff. I loved the library. The added bonus of my job was getting to see so many familiar faces from the high school—kids who were never part of my clubs or boards but had been frequent visitors to me at the high school library. They’d hug me, update me on their lives, remember our little inside jokes. And those minions, my core group? Most were now in college, but they remained loyal TAB and book club members. The best few hours of my month were the ones I got to spend listening to their brilliance.

 

BOOKCLUB2Over the years, I have shared bits and pieces of my teens’ insights here on TLT and on Twitter. If you have missed these posts, I highly suggest checking them out. Those teens have lots of smart things to say. We had a fantastically deep and important discussion about sexual violence in YA literature. We talked about mental health in YA literature. We’ve talked about their likes and dislikes in YA. We talked about school violence. Both Abby and Rose have guest posted for TLT. These kids are all smart and unique and I can’t wait to see what wonderful things everyone goes on to do.

 

 

ANNABOOKCLUB4For 6 years it has been my absolute honor to watch these young adults grow, learn, and lead. I’ve written scholarship letters, college recommendations, served as job references, had them babysit Callum, gone out to endless meals with them, heard relationship woes, offered up advice, and been their friend—and they’ve been mine. We’ve shared laughs, tears, and incredibly deep and personal conversations. I feel so lucky that they’ve let me into their lives and kept me around all these years. Books have given me so many things. They’ve given me not only entertainment and enjoyment, but bigger things. They’ve given me my education, my career, and my husband (there are worse places to meet your partner than working together at a bookstore). Books also gave me these wonderful teenagers. 

 

IMG_8430They have treated me as their friend and confidant and have been more meaningful to me than any part of any job ever has. I’m so, so grateful for all of you, my library minions, and won’t ever forget the impact you’ve had on my life. Saido, Khadija, Amiro, Anna, Abby, Ashleigh, Ryuda, Emada, Ekran, Fadumo, Ashley, Asiya, Amina, Rose, Sequoia—you’ve made me a better person. Thank you for sharing your lives with me. I am immeasurably thankful to have gotten to know you. 

 

#MHYALit: Talking about mental health-related books and issues with teens

MHYALitlogoofficfialFor the past nearly four years, I’ve run a monthly YA book club at the library. My crew has remained fairly strong over the years and is a very diverse mix of teens. Generally, we talk about whatever it is we’ve been reading. It’s very casual and there’s always lively discussion. To see some of our past conversations, check out this post about Marieke Nijkamp’s THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS and our discussion on sexual violence in YA lit (no, really—go check that one out right now). If any of you have used #MHYALit as a jumping off point for your book club, we’d love to hear about it. I’m @CiteSomething on Twitter. 

 

The discussion

Recently, we decided to read books that dealt with mental health issues and discuss not only the books, but the topic in general. I am very open with the teens about my own perpetual struggle with anxiety disorder and my son’s experiences with anxiety, too. Because my crew has stayed very consistent and is fairly close and open, our discussion was very relaxed and honest. Having a similar discussion with a larger group or a less close group may not get the same results as we were able to have. The book club members are all familiar with the #MHYALit project we’re doing here at TLT. Depiction of mental health issues and treatments has been an ongoing discussion for a few years now in our group, so they were well-versed in this subject already. Because of how well we’ve covered this ground, we talked more about larger mental health issues in the lives of teens.

 

I asked them what, if anything, is talked about in their schools regarding mental health. One girl said that at her school has a Wellness Center at school that is specifically for mental health help and resources. Because of recent suicides at her school, there is an increased attention to this subject. The school has had speakers in to talk to the student body. The Wellness Center has four doctors who come in to provide therapy. The school works with the students and their families to get them help during school hours at the school. They work with the teachers and rotate appointment times so kids don’t miss too much of any one class. Maybe because of this increased attention to mental health needs, this student felt that many teachers are more aware of mental health issues and seem like someone kids could turn to.

 

Some of the girls who attend another high school, the one I used to work at, felt that their school does nothing to address the needs of students struggling with mental health issues. They felt comfortable maybe approaching certain teachers about things, but didn’t think there was an overall understanding or desire to help students. One girl relayed a terrible story of going to the school guidance counselor and saying she was suicidal and the counselor flat out told her that’s not what that office was there for. “We don’t deal with that,” she told her. (Yes, I had a minor rage blackout over that story.) These girls said that outside of possibly telling a teacher they felt safe with, they wouldn’t know how to go about getting any help with mental health issues at school. They said that even if they went to a teacher, teachers aren’t trained in how to help them (or that’s their perception).

 

We discussed how mental health issues are talked about with their peers and their friend groups. They said these issues are slowly losing their stigma and that sometimes when one person shares about a struggle, it opens the doors for others to start sharing what they experience, too. They said they generally feel comfortable turning to their friends for help, knowing those friends will care and help you through something, but ultimately they’re just other kids, not trained professionals. This all led into an interesting talk about how there is no one way for depression or anxiety or OCD (etc) to look like, and that you never know what people have going on.

 

I asked if having more fictional characters facing mental health struggles helped actual teens. They all agreed that it normalizes these experiences and gives teens a peek at someone they might be able to relate to. They said that by seeing characters struggle in stories, they can see into other experiences, especially if they themselves don’t have this particular issue. They said that it helps them know how people suffer and it shows how they might be able to help or react. They said they often worry they’ll say the wrong thing to someone who is struggling and like to see examples of how to be supportive. “I like it when books teach me how to treat people,” one girl said. (Have I mentioned I heart my teens?)

 

Finally, I asked what they might like to see more or less of in YA regarding mental health issues. They want to see more experiences of teens in therapy or in treatment facilities. They want to see more teens actually liking their therapists and not being “dragged” to one or hating the experience. They want to see characters who see a therapist that’s not a great fit but then seek out someone who is more helpful. They’d like to see more treatment options in general.

 

My group had so many smart things to say and were so compassionate and open. We talked about the importance of schools and teachers being aware of mental health issues because in many cases, if teens can’t turn to their parents, school is maybe their best shot for someone noticing them struggling and potentially helping them. 

 

Handout 1: Questions about books

I prepared a handout with the following questions for readers to consider as they read books related to mental health issues. Feel free to use them with your own book club.

 

Questions to keep in mind as you read

  • What is the mental illness/what are the mental illnesses depicted?
  • What does their illness look like—symptoms, ways it affects them/others, how it might limit them, etc
  • How is the subject of mental illness approached or treated?
  • What help or treatment does the character seek? Who, if anyone, do they talk to about what’s going on? Who helps them?
  • Is there shame and stigma?
  • Is the treatment they receive helpful?
  • Is the issue of medication discussed? How is it approached? Do characters feel “drugged” like they can’t be themselves or like they will be numbed to feelings?
  • Does the author offer resources or notes at the end on the book on mental illness diagnosis, support, treatment, etc?

 

Handout 2: Additional discussion starters

  • Is mental health ever talked about at school, whether in health class or by counselors or addressed in any way?
  • What are your thoughts as teens on how mental health issues are addressed or stigmatized etc?
  • Does having more characters facing mental health struggles in YA books do anything to help actual teens?
  • What do you wish you’d see more/less of re: mental health in YA books?

 

Handout 3: Recommended reading

Feel free to use this list in your own library.

 

The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork (Depression, treatment facilities)

Truest by Jackie Lea Sommers (Solipsism syndrome)

We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson (Depression, grief)

Fig by Sarah Elizabeth Schantz (Schizophrenia)

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman (Schizophrenia)

Underwater by Marisa Reichardt (Panic disorders, anxiety, PTSD)

Some of the Parts by Hannah Barnaby (Grief)

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness (OCD, Anorexia)

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera (Depression)

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson (PTSD)

OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu (OCD)

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone (OCD)

Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn (Mental illness, psychopaths)

The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle (Grief, depression)

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord (Grief)

The Way Back from Broken by Amber J. Keyser (Grief)

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta (Depression)

When Reason Breaks by Cindy L. Rodriguez (Mental illness)

The Chance You Won’t Return by Annie Cardi (Mental illness, identity disorders)

Thicker Than Water by Kelly Fiore (Addiction)

Clean by Amy Reed (Addiction)

Scars by Cheryl Rainfield (Self-harm)

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (Eating disorders)

Identical by Ellen Hopkins (Multiple personality disorder)

It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (Depression, treatment facilities)

Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos (Depression)

The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder (Bipolar disorder)