It’s teen read week and we’ve got some great ideas from our Collections Editor, Sylvia Vardell, to get your teen-aged students to put down their mobile devices, take a break from social media, and pick up a book.
For nearly twenty years now, October has been the month for celebrating Teen Read Week™ (http://teenreadweek.ning.com), a time to “encourage teens to be regular readers and library users” according to the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). This year, Teen Read Week is October 9-15, 2016, featuring a multi-lingual “Read for the fun of it!” theme to “highlight all of the resources and services available to the 22% of the nation’s youth who speak a language other than English at home.” Since 1998, YALSA has been highlighting teens and their reading for Teen Read Week and during this time the field of YA literature has truly exploded in the numbers and variety of books being published, with an abundance of dystopian fiction, science fiction, and fantasy, in particular. YA fiction is drawing the attention of mass media and becoming popular crossover reading for adults, too. Many YA books are now adapted for feature films and television programs and e-book publication of YA fiction has skyrocketed too.
We have to do our part in the library to be sure young people know about all the great new books and materials being published and help them find choices that fit their interests. Fortunately, there are many great programs and strategies to try, starting with the resources available at YALSA’s Teen Programming Ideas http://hq.yalsa.net/index.html. In addition, check the reVIEWS+ Collections page for Kay Wejrowski’s comprehensive article, “Teen Promotions: Getting High School Students Excited about the Library” which is full of creative ideas. For those working in the middle school, don’t miss “Book Tasters” by Suzanne Dix (also on the Collections page) where she writes about creating a lunch club that’s a big hit with students who write reviews to promote books they love.
Another motivating approach for getting teens involved in reading is to invite them to vote for their favorite books on regional and national lists. For example, YALSA offers their list of Teens’ Top Ten “teen choice” books for 2016 where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year. The ten nominated books that receive the most votes will be named the official 2016 Teens’ Top Ten list. To learn more about this program and to access a free Teens’ Top Ten Toolkit, visit www.ala.org/yalsa/teenstopten. This also includes a video and list of all the nominees with annotations of each title. Most of the books on the recommended list for this month are from the Teens’ Top Ten list of nominees.
The International Literacy Association has its own list that teens can vote for called the Young Adult Choices list. The YA Choices list is an annual list of new books selected by young readers themselves that encourages adolescents to read . Each year, approximately 4,500 students (grades 7–12) from different areas of the United States read and select thrity titles from new books provided by publishers. For more information, go to: https://www.literacyworldwide.org
One more way that librarians and teachers are promoting literature for young adults is through creating special events and festivals that gather teens together with the authors whose works they admire. In my home state of Texas, for example, the Texas Book Festival begun in 1995 now brings nearly 300 authors of books for all ages to the state every November. It has even spun off a Texas Teen Book Festival specifically for young people. Other young adult festivals are gaining momentum such as the North Texas Teen Book Festival and YAKFest, both in the Dallas area, TeenBookCon in the Houston area, and Librarypalooza in the San Antonio area. There’s nothing quite like meeting an author whose work you have read and pondered. If we can help provide those opportunities for the teens in our lives, let’s go for it!
Read Christie Kaaland’s article, “Literacy Conversations: Teens and Authors” about the Cavalcade of Authors event in Washington state that allows hundreds of teens the opportunity “to hear original backstories, pose star-struck for photos, and be inspired by these authors. Imagine an event where students and authors can share ideas and find inspirations around the art of writing.”
A creative and economical alternative we might also consider is Skyping with an author for a virtual visit. At her blog, “YA Books and More,” (http://naomibates.blogspot.com/p/authors-who-skype-or-have-skyped.html) librarian Naomi Bates offers a list of two dozen YA authors who are willing to Skype with students (or who have Skyped in the past).
You can also check the websites of your favorite authors and see if they offer Skype or Facetime visits. If it’s possible to arrange an author connection, be sure the students are fully prepared and have read and discussed that author’s work so they can get the most out of that interaction. And if all else fails, there are many wonderful interviews with YA authors to read, share, and talk about. For example, this month on the reVIEWS+ Collections page you’ll find Lisa Hunt’s profile of and interview with S.E. Hinton, author of the landmark book, The Outsiders. She notes, in particular, that Hinton “embraces her fans and young writers through fan fiction sites and her own interactive website. She tells me that a lot of young writers contact her, and she enjoys the exchange.”
There are so many excellent ways to promote books for teens and get students involved in reading, discussing, and promoting books widely. For even more ideas and strategies, check out the Young Adult Services Symposium organized by YALSA and held every other year. The next one will be held next month (Nov. 4-6) in Pittsburgh, PA, with the theme, “Empowering Teens to Increase Your Library’s Impact.” And if you can’t attend yourself, check out the YALSA website, Twitter feeds, and blog posts for helpful nuggets:
YALSA Symposium website: http://www.ala.org/yalsa/yasymposium
YALSA blog: http://yalsa.ala.org/blog/
The Hub: http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/
Twitter handle: @YALSA
Twitter YA Symposium hashtag: #yalsa16
Sylvia Vardell is Professor in the School of Library and Information Studies at Texas Woman’s University and teaches courses in literature for children and young adults. She has authored or co-authored more than 100 published articles, more than 25 book chapters and given more than 150 presentations at national and international conferences. She is the author of Children’s Literature in Action: A Librarian’s Guide, Poetry Aloud Here!, The Poetry Teacher’s Book of Lists, Poetry People, co-edits The Poetry Friday Anthology series (with Janet Wong) and maintains the PoetryForChildren blog and poetry column for ALA’s Book Links magazine.