The Pennsylvania Humanities Council will provide funding, training, and technical support for 2016-17 Teen Reading Lounge programs in 26 libraries across 19 Pennsylvania counties. Among participating libraries, 13 will take part in an ongoing pilot program structured to provide ways for teens to meaningfully contribute to their communities and participate in civically focused activities. The pilot puts special emphasis on reaching youth from low-income backgrounds.
“Teen Reading Lounge gives teenagers the chance to engage in discussions and activities that are important to them—and to build skills that will serve them in school and beyond,” said Laurie Zierer, Pennsylvania Humanities Council executive director. "As we continue to refine this program and gather data on its positive outcomes, we want to ensure that its participants are as diverse as the population of our state."
Teen Reading Lounge is a nontraditional book club tailored by program sites to reflect the culture of their towns or neighborhoods—and the interests and needs of the teens that live there. Local youth aged 12-18 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.
More than 600 teenagers and 78 libraries have participated in Teen Reading Lounge since its launch in 2010. Participants report stronger interpersonal, communication, literacy, and critical-thinking skills, and increased confidence.
The Teen Reading Lounge framework was 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.
In fact preliminary data from 2015-16 Teen Reading Lounge programs showed that participants build important life skills through engaging with the humanities:
- 84% of participating teens reported that Teen Reading Lounge helped them better recognize and respect the differences and perspectives of others.
- 72% learned to contribute to a group by sharing experiences, knowledge and ideas; exercise flexibility in a group setting (e.g., work within a team); respond to different ideas and values with an open mind.
In addition, 80% of participants said that they would return to the program.
“With the skills they practice through Teen Reading Lounge, young people are better able to develop confidence in themselves and relationships with one another. This connectedness builds a sense of community,” Zierer said. “In fact the data collected by our program evaluators suggest that participating teens have become more interested in volunteering in their libraries and their towns.”
Through Teen Reading Lounge, the Pennsylvania Humanities Council invests funds to improve achievement outcomes for youth, but it also helps position program sites to make changes in the way they serve youth. The 2016-17 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.
Sites hosting a 2016-17 Teen Reading Lounge program are listed below by county:
Baden Memorial Library
B.F. Jones Memorial Library
Laughlin Memorial Library
Altoona Area Public Library
Allen F. Pierce Free Library
Warminster Township Free Library
Free Library of New Hope and Solebury
Highland Community Library
Redbank Valley Public Library
Lansdowne Public Library
Radnor Memorial Library
Raymond M. Blasco, MD Memorial Library-Erie County Public Library
Coyle Free Library
Rebecca M. Arthurs Memorial Library
Carbondale Public Library
Ephrata Public Library
Pittston Memorial Library
Pottstown Regional Public Library
Huntingdon Valley Library
Priestley Forsyth Memorial Library
Free Library of Philadelphia - Haverford Branch
Free Library of Philadelphia - Greater Olney Branch
Free Library of Philadelphia - Philadelphia City Institute
Meyersdale Public Library
Oil City Library
Guthrie Memorial Library
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.