The Pennsylvania Humanities Council is pleased to announce that 15 libraries across Pennsylvania have been selected to host a spring 2016 Teen Reading Lounge program. This particular round of programming aims to better understand the needs of low-income youth and to explore how Teen Reading Lounge can help them build essential life skills.
"More than 600 teenagers and 77 libraries have participated in Teen Reading Lounge since its launch in 2009," said Laurie Zierer, Pennsylvania Humanities Council executive director. "As we move forward with this program, we want to ensure that we reach teens across diverse socio-economic backgrounds."
Teen Reading Lounge is a nontraditional book club for teens ages 12-18. Teens help to create the reading list for their program sites and, working with trained facilitators, to design creative projects that bring the books to life. Participants report stronger interpersonal, communication, literacy, and critical-thinking skills, and increased confidence.
The program is built on the belief that encouragement to choose creative pursuits and interest-focused programs is crucial to teen development. The humanities naturally push teens to ask questions and share ideas, activities that are vital as teens begin to discover who they are, who they want to be, and how to relate to other people.
"You can’t get confidence from a book, but connecting with other teenagers to share experiences and have discussions can make a big difference in the way kids feel about themselves and their ability to make wise choices," Zierer said. "Real confidence builds resiliency, so teens can bounce back from challenges and excel in life."
According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, 39% of Pennsylvania children lived in low-income families in 2013 (with low-income defined as $47,248 for a family of four with two children). The public policy blog Third and State reports that half of all school districts in Pennsylvania suffered from concentrated poverty in 2013-14, meaning the poverty rate equaled or exceeded 40%. (The federal poverty threshold for a family of four with two children was $23,624 in 2013.)
All libraries participating in the 2015-16 Teen Reading Lounge program currently provide services to low-income youth, with 57% of the selected sites reporting poverty rates for their community at 20% or higher. When it comes to producing programs for teens, the sites range from extensive experience to no prior experience, but all are committed to learning how to work with this age group.
With Teen Reading Lounge, the Pennsylvania Humanities Council invests funds to improve achievement outcomes for youth, but it also helps position libraries to make changes in the way they serve youth. The 2015-16 Teen Reading Lounge sites will receive funding to cover program expenses as well as an honorarium to pay a program facilitator. They will also receive training in working with facilitators and local teens to design a program that’s meaningful for their communities.
In December site coordinators and facilitators will attend a mandatory all-day orientation on topics including selecting books, designing activities, recruiting the target audience, and building relationships with teens. All Teen Reading Lounge programs will launch in 2016.
Sites hosting a 2015-16 Teen Reading Lounge program are listed below by county:
Baden Memorial Library, Baden, and Laughlin Memorial Library, Ambridge
B.F. Jones Memorial Library, Aliquippa
Allen F. Pierce Free Library, Troy
Lansdowne Public Library, Lansdowne
Coyle Free Library, Chambersburg
Community Library of the Shenango Valley, Sharon
Pottstown Public Library, Pottstown
Priestley Forsyth Memorial Library, Northumberland
Free Library of Philadelphia - Greater Olney Branch, Philadelphia
Free Library of Philadelphia - Haverford Avenue Branch Library, Philadelphia
Free Library of Philadelphia - Kensington Branch, Philadelphia
Free Library of Philadelphia - Wadsworth Branch, Philadelphia
Guthrie Memorial Library, Hanover
Martin Memorial Library, York
Teen Reading Lounge is made possible by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) as administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education through the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, Governor. Additional support is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.