Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

View from Behind the Lens: Advanced Photography for Teens, a Guest Post by Lynette Pitrak

makerspaceIn the fall and winter of 2014, I had an amazing experience coordinating a filmmaking workshop for high school students called View from the Director’s Chair.  To highlight a different aspect of our library’s Media Lab this year, our IT Department Manager and I created a similarly-structured workshop called View from Behind the Lens.

View from Behind the Lens began October 21st, and will continue through December 16th.  We were lucky enough to hire Downers Grove-based photographer Mike Taylor, a professional photographer and college professor, as our instructor for this program series.  Along with Mike, our library’s IT Assistant Jason, myself, and eight teenagers in middle school and high school meet weekly to learn advanced photography skills!!  

teens pose with tripods near a monument

View from Behind the Lens Halloween Photo Shoot

We are now several weeks into this workshop, and have learned a lot about digital photography techniques!!  The students in class are working with a combination of Canon and Nikon cameras (and everyone is VERY loyal to their chosen brand! :)).  We have gone over the basic settings of the cameras, including f-stop, aperture, and white balance. Mike has also discussed various kinds of photography with the students, such as stop-action, motion-blur, infrared, and night photography, and how to use the lenses and settings to achieve the desired effects.  To put this instruction to work, the students have gone on in-class walking tours through Downers Grove.  We have done daytime landscape shoots, portraiture, an architectural shoot, and a fun night shoot in the cemetery to celebrate Halloween!

girls pose for portraits in funny wigs

View from Behind the Lens Portraiture Shoot

In one week, we will be taking a field trip to the Museum of Contemporary Photography to take a docent-lead tour of a special photography exhibit.  Because the museum is staffed by volunteers from Columbia College’s photography program, the View from Behind the Lens students will have the opportunity to talk about what it is like to major in photography.  

In the last weeks of class, students will learn how to edit their photographs with Lightroom and Photoshop.  Then, they will have a month to shoot on their own, to prepare final photographs for a gallery show and Meet the Artists event on February 28, 2016!!!



Lynette Pitrak is the  Teen Services Coordinator at the Downers Grove Public Library in Downers Grove, Illinois.

View From the Director’s Chair: It’s a Wrap – Guest post by Lynette Pitrak

I previously submitted a post detailing the first few weeks of an exciting documentary film making program for teenagers that the Downers Grove Public Library was providing for the first time. Now that the program is finished, I would love to share how everything turned out!!

After learning camera, lighting, and audio techniques from our wonderful trainer Laura Zinger, of 20K Films, Inc., the students had a brainstorming session (complete with pizza and other snacks) to discuss ideas for final film topics. It was so much fun to take part in this discussion, and hear about the passions behind the teens’ desires to create movies. Potential topics ranged from very personal to the more abstract and cerebral end of the spectrum. It is great to know that while not all topics were chosen for this particular project, the students had the opportunity to discuss them and develop ideas to revisit on their own later.

In the end, four final film topics were chosen: stress levels of high school students, the world of competitive online gaming, the challenges and opportunities faced by starting a band in high school, and the tactile, precious nature of artwork. The students each chose which film they would like to work on based on personal interest.

All of the students were able to check out the necessary equipment so that they could conduct the interviews in realistic settings. While some interviews did take place in the library’s Digital Media Lab and Teen Central area, it was important for the students to record their chosen subjects in personal environments: bedrooms, afterschool work places, music recording studios, classrooms at College of DuPage, etc. Ms. Zinger felt it was especially important for students to experience the challenges involved in filming in new locations, including framing shots, adjusting to tricky lighting situations, and capturing quality audio footage amidst unwanted background noise.

One thing that film makers always say, and that definitely proved to be true, is that there is never enough time to edit. The final two classes of the program were devoted to teaching the students Final Cut Pro editing software, and then the students were given an additional month to work on editing their films on their own. During this time, Ms. Zinger and I also ran two six-hour open editing sessions, for students to drop in and work on editing with an instructor present for additional guidance. The majority of students attended both editing sessions, and also did a fantastic job editing on their own.

Their level of commitment to their projects was amazing, and during high school final exam weeks, most were camped out at the library alternating between studying for their tests and editing their films. To showcase all of the teens’ incredible work, the Downers Grove Public Library partnered with the Tivoli Theater to hold a student film festival on February 7th that was free for anyone to attend.

We screened the four student-made films:

Can’t Touch This

Less Stress

Bands After Class

and Co-Op

as well as a prequel film of two local teen musicians recording in the audio part of the library’s Media Lab

Live from the Digital Media Lab – Jack

Live from the Digital Media Lab – Jenna

Over two hundred people attended to view the films, and after the screening stayed to participate in a Q & A session with the film makers. The Q & A was a great experience for everyone, with the audience asking perceptive, thoughtful questions and the teens responding with intelligence, passion, and humor. For those who were unable to attend the Tivoli screening, but still interested in viewing the films, our library posted all of the films on our YouTube channel. We also added two Blu-Ray copies of all of the films to the library’s circulating collection.

This entire program was an amazing reminder of teens’ capacity and commitment to imagining, inventing, creating, and it was completely inspiring and humbling for me to be part of this process. In addition, the students involved in this program are already demonstrating their desire to give back to the community by acting as trainers for other tech and maker related programs held at the Downers Grove Public Library. It has been a win-win situation for all involved!!!

Thank you for giving Downers Grove Public Library the opportunity to share this program with other librarians and educators, and please feel free to get in touch with questions at any time.

Lynette Pitrak is the Teen Services Coordinator at the Downers Grove Public Library. Reach her at lpitrak (at) dglibrary.org

Sunday Reflections: What’s a Powder Puff?

Like most of us, I wear a few different hats. In addition to being a teen services librarian, I’m also a Daisy Girl Scout leader, and I love it. I love the enthusiasm of first graders, their pure hearts and bright eyes. I love getting to be the one to introduce them to service projects and nature hikes, to seeing new friendships blossom and old friendships deepen. As a Girl Scout alumni, and a third generation leader, it’s one of the more fulfilling roles I’ve ever held.  As with my librarianship, I am passionate about my opportunity as a leader to advocate for the girls in my troop, and hopefully by extension, for all girls. Unfortunately, I’m struggling with how to advocate for them right now in the face of some institutionalized sexism that’s coming from an unexpected and troubling place.

I heard about the event before I saw the flyer, and I knew immediately that “my girls” – the eight first graders in the Daisy troop I lead – would be all about it. For the first time ever, our local Girl Scout council is hosting a pinewood car race. These girls have been cooped up in the park district rec room all winter and have been itching for a chance to do something. Something cool. Something active. Something that real Girl Scouts do: have an adventure.

For five dollars, you buy a car kit, which consists of a block of wood, two axles, four wheels, and a good luck wish, which you use to craft the fastest little car you can. What’s not to love?! It’s creative, it’s active, it’s hands-on, it hits a bunch of STEAM marks, and at the end there’s a race with winners and there are even those ever-important patches to sew on the back of the girls’ vests. So cool. We can’t … oh wait.


Seriously. What in the name of Shirley Muldowney is THAT?

Yes, folks. The good old Girls Scouts of the USA is sponsoring a Powder Puff Derby. I can’t tell you how my heart sank to read that. I was floored. I guess I’ve been living in a little bubble because I figured that we were essentially beyond this kind of sexist naming tradition in the women run, girl powered, STEM focused world of Girl Scouting in 2015. The Pinewood Derby is a registered trademark of the Boy Scouts of America, so I understand that the Girl Scouts wouldn’t call their race the same thing – but of all of the phrases to use, why, oh why, is powder puff the one they chose? Since we’re not racing cosmetic products, it’s clearly because this is an activity that the boys usually do, but now the girls can give it a try too. But this secondary naming does nothing to assure girls that they have a place in the race. Powder Puff events were those where it was cute and fun for the girls to swap roles with the boys: the cheerleaders played football, the women raced their planes across the country, and now, the girls build, bling, and race their own wooden cars too.

As I held up the flyer and talked up this event – which I’m really excited about – and my scouts eyes’ opened wide with enthusiasm, one girl raised her hand. “But what’s a powder puff?”

Just to be perfectly clear, my problem is not with the event. It’s not with encouraging girls in this pursuit. It’s not in borrowing from the Boy Scouts wildly popular event. It’s in the name. A name that, as far as I can tell, was coined in this context by humorist Will Rogers as a nickname for the first Women’s National Air Derby.

And as many accounts attest, despite the name, Will Rogers was a great supporter of women in this pursuit, just as the Girl Scouts are today. But still, the name.

Before I could go on about car designs or scheduling or working days, I had to first explain to my girls what a powder puff actually is. These girls are too young for makeup, and as far as they know, a car race is a car race. Girl Scouts have always told them they could do and be anything at all. So I started by telling about the makeup applicator, and then went on to explain the tradition of calling activities that girls do sometimes but boys do all the time… a powder puff activity. And frankly, I didn’t have it in me to go into the part that bothers me the most, that our beloved Girl Scouts think that this is ok.

Powder Puff football is still played on some campuses, and many fondly remember the fun and athleticism of the event. And that high level of competition – whether it’s by the girls in the senior class, or trailblazing aviators, or eight year olds with a block of wood and some sandpaper – is exactly why the name is outdated, diminishing, and just plain wrong. The girls and women involved in these events take it just as seriously as anyone. The aviators competed on a level parallel to the men. The seniors play so ferociously that injuries are sadly not at all uncommon. And if you could have seen the spark in the room at that Daisy Scout meeting, you’d be dead sure that these first graders are in it to win it.

I’ve voiced my concerns directly to my local Scout council, and understand that they’re thinking about changing the name for next year. But that doesn’t seem like enough anymore. The time has come. The name has to change. It took my Daisies about forty seconds to come up with at least ten new possibilities. Words matter. Names matter. Our girls are proud to call themselves Daisies, Girl Scouts, brave, creative, strong, smart, caring, dedicated, and fast. Girl Scouts is the last organization that should be planting the seeds of self doubt that come along with sexist naming traditions.

Take 5: The Robot Test Kitchen’s Reading List

The five of us in the Robot Test Kitchen all came to this project from different comfort levels with technology. Some of us couldn’t get enough of it, some of us were skilled at it, some of us were dragging our heels, and some of us were curious but trepidatious. Some of us were a little bit of it all. Now that our project year has ended, we don’t have the amazing instructors in the ILEAD program to guide us every few months, we’re looking for ways to keep on learning. Here are a few books on our reading list this winter:

Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom By Sylvia Libow Martinez & Gary Stager
This guide is geared toward teachers, but that approach is really nice here, especially as an advocacy tool. It’s a great title for those librarians who ask themselves, “why robots? why STEM? why here?” because it looks at tinkering and making in the context of educational philosophy before getting into answering the “what” and “how” questions that will follow.



Making Makers: Kids, Tools, and the Future of Innovation by Dr. AnnMarie Thomas

Dr. Thomas is behind the super fun, super simple, super instructive Squishy Circuits concept. In her book, she interviews makers of all kinds to take a closer look at how childhood experiences can light a spark that can lead to creation and innovation. I love her playful approach to technology. It feels right and real to me.




Design, Make, Play: Growing the Next Generation of STEM Innovators by Margaret Honey

Another one to add to your list, especially if you feel you might face resistance to the concept of integrating STEM programs, whether from others in the library, or within yourself. Treating each activity: designing, making, and playing, as different pathways into learning is a really interesting concept, and certainly something that we at the Robot Test Kitchen have seen play out in our programs.



Zero to Maker: Learn (just enough) to make (just about) anything by David Lang

If you’re on board and ready to start making stuff, this is the book for you. Lang walks you through his process of embracing the maker movement and learning that it’s “really not about DIY or do it yourself, this whole thing is about DIT or do it together.” What a great concept, right? What a library friendly concept!




The Maker Cookbook: Recipes for Children’s and Tweens Library Programming by Cindy R. Wall and Lynn M. Pawloski 

Written by librarians for librarians, this is a great grab-and-go programming resource. And while the title says Children and Tweens, I’m pretty confident that the fun factor of a lot of the programs will bring them up to the teen level, or could be expanded upon in a way that would make them appealing to your teens.

View from the Director’s Chair: Guest post by Lynette Pitrak

Downers Grove Public Library just finished a large redesign project, and two of the major changes were a brand new Teen Central area and a Digital Media Lab. While the Digital Media Lab is open to all ages, we thought that our teen patrons would be especially excited about this area’s advanced video, music, and photography hardware and software!!

on-camera interview practiceIn preparation of the opening of the Digital Media Lab, we developed an 8-week course for high school students to learn how to create a documentary film from start to finish. One day a week, for two hours at a time, twelve high school students meet at the library to learn about film. Each class is set up to build on the previous week’s lessons. We have completed three classes so far, and students have learned the basics of how to change out the lenses, use the white balance, and work with the different f-stops and focuses on the cameras. The students have also learned the artistry behind framing shots and balancing natural light vs. artificial light (such as LED, umbrella, and three-point lighting).

Each week at the end of class, the students practice interviewing each other in short 1-3 minute videos. We then watch all of these videos together. While watching the videos, we discuss what worked in terms of film technique, but also in their personal interviewing approach. Students have found that asking open ended questions almost always makes for a much more interesting interview than asking simple yes or no questions. They have also found that using humor and conversation helps to open up the person being interviewed. Some of the great topics of these short interview films have been “Describe your daily hair care regimen” and “If you could create the perfect sandwich, what would be on it?” All of the students have been incredibly open, good natured, and kind with one another, and while sometimes provide constructive criticism, are always careful to balance this with compliments. It is an amazing group of teens!!

At the end of the eight weeks of classes, the students will have a full month to work on editing and fine tuning their own individual documentary films. Then, on February 7th, we will be screening all twelve films in a festival at Downers Grove’s beautiful, historical Tivoli Theater. At the program’s completion, each of the participating students will also spend at least four hours assisting other patrons in the library’s Digital Media Lab. Most of the teens are very excited about the opportunity to teach what they have learned to other members of our community!!

Zinger instructs teensThe most important component to making this program a success, besides having an amazing group of students, was to bring in a professional documentary film maker. Thanks to a grant from the Best Buy Foundation, we were fortunate enough to hire Laura Zinger of 20K Films, Inc. to teach each of the classes at the library. Miss Zinger has an incredible rapport with the students. Aside from teaching the technical and artistic facets of filmmaking, she is able to give practical advice for those aspiring to work in the field, such as how to seek out project funding and how to market a final product. It is really inspiring for students to learn from an instructor who has started her own film company, and released a full-length documentary film (Proceed and Be Bold). Miss Zinger is actually currently on a road trip to interview an artist for a documentary she is currently working on, and she will relay her experiences to the students in next week’s class!!

For those who are interested, the equipment we are using for this project is listed below. Also, please feel free to follow our weekly updates on the library’s website  and under the Twitter hashtag #dgdocu.


Equipment List with quantities

2 Canon T3i (Kit)

2 Canon EFS 18-55mm Lens (Kit)

2 Canon 50mm 1/1.8 Prime Lens (Kit)

1 Rode VideoMic Pro Shotgun Mic (Kit)

1 Rode VideoMic Shotgun Mic

2 Windscreen

2 72” Tripod

1 3-point Light Set

1 Zoom H2N Audio Recorder

1 Rokinon 24mm Wide Angle Lens


Lynette Pitrak is the  Teen Services Coordinator at Downers Grove Public Library in Downers Grove, Illinois.

We’re Not Faking it, We’re Making It: from the Robot Test Kitchen

One of the features on the Robot Test Kitchen is a True Confessions series. In it, we discuss our personal experiences in this brave new world of integrating technology programming into our libraries. Sometimes it’s triumphant, sometimes it’s scary, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. The point of our True Confessions is to illustrate that no matter where you are with your technology skills and programming, you can move forward and you are doing it. In today’s RTK post, Jacquie shares her perspectives on a recent experience with both webinars and littleBits.

Working with my Robot Test Kitchen colleagues during ILEADUSA was a fantastic experience, and now that we’re continuing with this project I appreciate the value of this collaboration even more. When we’re given opportunities, chances are at least one of us can say yes. A couple of weeks ago Brian Pichman with the Evolve Project asked if any of us would be panelists during a webinar about Library Makerspaces, specifically talking about LittleBits in libraries. Due to busy schedules, I ended up being the one who was available.

As the webinar began, I experienced a moment of self doubt (which is unusual for me, but I know I’m not the only one to go through this) as I read the comments from the participants. So many of them have thriving Makerspaces, and are already using LittleBits in innovative ways that I thought, “Who am I to be a panelist and impart any knowledge to them?” I was already in and I accepted that plowing forward was the only option, so I gave myself a brief pep talk and carried on. I did talk about my experiences with LittleBits thus far, as well as plans for in-house use and circulation of kits.

Here are just some of the things I learned and ideas I gleaned:

  • The other panelist, Jessica Lamarre, shared the fantastic idea to use small pictures of the LittleBits components to make sure they get put back correctly, whether they’re housed in the original packaging or in a plastic tackle-box type container.
  • I learned that there is a LittleBits Synth Kit, which I think will be a great fit in my library for next summer’s Read to the Rhythm summer reading program.
  • There is an Arduino component so you can use Scratch extensions, there is a LEGO brick adapter, and they’ve even been used to power 3D printed cars. Is there anything LittleBits don’t play nicely with?

In the end, I’m glad I had this experience. I may not be an expert, but I have a lot to share. I’m not new to this either, but I still enjoy learning, sharing, and being inspired by the ideas of others. It was worth it to step out of my comfort zone, sit in front of a webcam, and share what I know because this is all so very important.

Whatever we’re working on, our ultimate goal is enrich lives and build communities. At the same time, if you’re reading this you’re part of a community. Whatever fantastic things get made or invented in our schools and libraries, however many kids are inspired to pursue new interests, we are part of it. Just as we’re giving people in our communities a chance to create and connect, we need to keep on connecting with each other. We’re not just making the makerspaces so the makers can come make, we are the makers too. So let’s embrace that maker spirit and realize that each of has a unique perspective and something to share. Your experiences and even the questions you ask can spark an idea for someone else.

Jacquie @infojacquie

TPiB: Touch Screen Gloves from the Robot Test Kitchen

There’s no need to spend big bucks on fancy gloves that let you use your touchscreen devices. In this inexpensive and simple program teens can make their own! This is also a great STEM related program for those of us who are more comfortable with traditional craft programs. It’s timely given the winter season fast approaching, and teens will end up with a really useful product that they can either keep and use themselves, or give as a gift.


supplies$7 Conductive Thread

$1 / 2 pairs Gloves

Needles & Needle threader

Fat markers

There are no real big expenses here as you can likely find some needles around the library or your own house. The bobbin spool of conductive thread linked above contains 26 yards, ample even for a large group. Teens can bring their own gloves from home, or you can easily find them this time of year at a Dollar Store.



Thread the needles with a couple feet of conductive thread.

Have teens select and put on the gloves, then pretend that they are using a handheld device. This is to figure out exactly where they want the conductive bits to be (hint: it’s not square in the center of your thumb!). Use the marker to mark the spots.

Stitching the finger padRemove the gloves and insert a capped marker into the first finger that you’re going to sew. This is so you can use your dominant hand to sew and still avoid sewing the fingertip closed!

With a simple satin stitch, create the conductive pad.

It’s important to get the stitches to go all the way through the layer of glove material. If the conductive thread doesn’t contact your finger, it won’t work.

Test out each pad after you finish stitching, but before you knot it off. If it doesn’t work as well as you want, add more rows of stitching in the correct places, being sure to go all the way through the fabric of the glove so that it contacts your hand.

After knotting off the work, leave a tail of thread inside the finger of the glove to ensure that there’s plenty of contact between your hand and the conductive pad.

If visuals help, this great video explains it all.

If you do self-directed programs at your library, this would be an easy enough activity to set out as a take-home with a few additional prep steps:

  • Cut lengths of the thread and wind them around cards – ideally instruction cards for this activity.
  • Consider pre-threading needles with the thread.
For more details on this project and lots of extension activity ideas, check out our review on the Robot Test Kitchen.



Top 5 Take-aways from ILEAD-USA

This year I’m jumping out of my comfort zone of YA fiction and crafty programs and have joined a team that was accepted to the ILEAD USA program in Illinois.  Over the course of the year, our team will design and implement a program using technology to improve service to our patrons and more deeply connect with our communities.  My team, the Techno-Whats, will be exploring simple robotics for children and teens, and structuring staff training so that more people in service to kids and teens will feel comfortable and supported in trying these new STEM programs.

Find out More about ILead

But what I learned at our first in person session is that ILEAD is so much more than technology! Here are my top 5 take-aways from what several have aptly termed “library sleepaway camp” that I think everyone can benefit from.

1. The process is more important than the product.

We were reminded repeatedly that trying is more important than not trying, and the final product will not be as useful or meaningful to the library world in general as going through the process of learning something new. Robotics is something I have so little knowledge of, I was reassured that becoming an expert will not make this a success, but learning something new and working with a team will.  The phrase used frequently throughout the week was Fail Forward. When you learn something new, even if you learn what to never do again, your perceived failure is not really a failure.

2. Where imaginations play, learning happens.

Don’t you love this? This quote from Michael Steven’s presentation gets to the heart of both libraries, and our project. Creating a space within our walls and programs where teens can be imaginative and explore without undue restrictions — where they can play — they have the distinct opportunity to learn something new. They might learn about robotics, or poetry, or how to be a better friend, and they might just learn about themselves.  Where imaginations play, learning happens.

3. Accessible design helps everyone.

Sina Bahram used a familiar example from everyday life to explain how everyone benefits when our programs and services are designed in a way to be accessible to people with diverse needs. Curb cuts, those sloping bits of sidewalk leading toward crosswalks, may have been implemented to help those in wheelchairs, but it’s folks pushing strollers or pulling rolling luggage that use them the most. We all benefit when opportunities and information are offered in as accessible a way as possible. How can we bring accessibility into our web and library design, beyond what our institutions are required to do?

4. It’s not about technology, it’s about people.

This might seem an argument against expanding tech offerings and programs in libraries, but in reality it’s the opposite. We’re not in the book business or the tech business, we’re in the people and community business, and we have such great opportunities to connect with and serve our people and our communities through technology. As we consider trying or disregarding new tech, we need to ask ourselves — are we doing this to serve then tech, or the people? As a sidenote, this lesson was further reinforced to me, and dovetails nicely with point three above, in this Ted Talk about bionics. The speaker, who sports two bionic legs and was part of the team that designed a leg for a dancer who was injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, said something beautiful. After suffering a double amputation after a climbing accident, he reasoned that “a human being can never be broken. Technology is broken. Technology is inadequate.” When we use technology to serve people, we are using it right.

5. We may be in sharky water, but we are the sharks.

I’m pretty sure Beck Tench’s talk changed my life. What a great birthday present that was. In it, as she walked us through her suggestions for being an agent of change in your organization. (The formula is small change x time = big change.) The first deeply resonant moment in her talk for me was pointing out that trying new and different things seems scary and hard because of all of the “sharks in the water”… but that those sharks are quite often our own fears and insecurities.  It’s a wonderfully gentle and and brave and affirming talk – I encourage everyone to watch it.
I’m planning to keep all five of these life lessons in my back pocket for a long time. Hopefully they’re useful to others as well!

Bring the Power of Music Into Your Library: a guest post by Guitar Notes author Mary Amato for Music in Our Schools Month (March)

Although March is many things, like National Craft Month and Women’s History Month, it is also Music in Our Schools Month.  As school budgets get cut, music and education are some of the first to go, especially with today’s emphasis on STEM education.  But there are those who advocate STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math.  By adding the arts, you increase creativity and innovation, along with innovation, problem solving and more.  Today, in support of music in our schools, Guitar Notes author Mary Amato writes a guest post about The Power of Music.  And for more information on how you can help Save the Music, stop by the VH1 website.

Listening to a song I love can turn around a bad day or make a great day even better. I love music, and about five years ago I made a promise to myself to actually learn how to play the guitar. Along the way, I kept imagining the powerful connection that two characters could make if they really started to share music together. That’s how Guitar Notes was born.

In the novel, a teen boy and girl challenge each other to write songs and start a duo called The Thrum Society. Instead of having the songwriting action happen “offstage,” I wanted to show them actually writing.  That meant I needed to write every song. I loved doing this. After I was done, I thought about how cool it would be for readers to hear the songs, not just see the lyrics, so I partnered up with a male musician friend, Bill Williams, and together we arranged and recorded the tracks. Readers can hear them on the book’s website: http://thrumsociety.com/.

Readers are sending me messages saying that, after reading the book, they are inspired to write their own songs. This is music to my ears! I wish more teachers would include songwriting as part of the English class curriculum, along with poetry. Students who struggle with writing or with literature can be turned on through songwriting. Lyrics use all the elements of writing that are taught in a great English class—metaphor, alliteration, rhythm, symbolism, personification, etc.—and it’s an expressive, relevant art form that gets kids exciting about writing. I’m trying to put lots of songwriting resources on the thrumsociety website to help—songwriting tip videos, a songwriting lesson plan for teachers and media specialists, blank guitar chord templates, and much more.

I would love it if teen media specialists would consider creating a “Songwriting Studio.” This could be simple: a carrel labeled For Songwriter’s with a copy of Guitar Notes and some blank songwriting journals (note to whoever puts this up…here’s the link for the blank songwriting journals). Or you could go crazy and devote a study room that contains: copies of novels that are about music, like Guitar Notes, books on songwriting, earphones, and a computer with garageband. 
Take 5: More Teen Titles About Music
The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr (review tomorrow)
Notes from Ghost Town by Kate Elliott
If I Stay by  Gayle Forman

Lemonade Mouth by Mark Peter Hughes

Somebody Everybody Listens To by Suzanne Supplee

More on Music at TLT:
The Power of Music, a guest post by Melissa Darnell
The Soundtrack of Your Books
Steph’s Take: Top 10 Titles Inspired by Music 

Does your school still have a music program? What are your favorite music themed YA titles to share with teens? And what do you think about Mary’s ideas for encouraging musical pursuits in public libraries? What ideas would you add?

Mary Amato is an award-winning children’s book author, poet, playwright, and songwriter. Her books have been translated into foreign languages, optioned for television, produced onstage, and have won the children’s choice awards in several states.  Her book, Guitar Notes, was published by Egmont USA in July of 2012. ISBN: 9781606841242.