Pennsylvania Humanities Council Expands Successful Statewide Youth Program

September 11, 2019

PHILADELPHIA, September 11, 2019 – The Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC) has expanded its award-winning Teen Reading Lounge program to nine new library sites across the state for 2019-2020. Eleven existing sites, including last year’s Out-of-School-Time (OST) pilot sites in Philadelphia, will continue to receive support — totaling $144,000 for all 20 locations. The primary goal is to continue to leverage the humanities as a tool for positive youth development, with an emphasis on engaging youth experiencing poverty and youth of color. 

“Traditional programs for teens rely on a top-down approach,” said Laurie Zierer, Pennsylvania Humanities Council executive director. “Teen Reading Lounge is different because we start by asking young people what they think is important and then let them take the lead.”

First launched in 2010, Teen Reading Lounge is an interactive book club for youth ages 12-18. Through youth-focused book discussions and creative civic engagement projects, teens come together to explore contemporary issues while building valuable social-emotional learning skills.

Since its inception, Teen Reading Lounge has run in nearly 100 communities and engaged more than 1,000 youth in rural, urban, and suburban areas across the Commonwealth. A recent independent analysis by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit found that the program improved skills in high-need areas like communication, social awareness, and collaboration. Teens also self-report improvements in how they feel about books and express an increased interest in reading.

The funds PHC provides cover program expenses and an outside facilitator — a local professional with expertise in working with youth who can help library staff develop and run the program. Library staff also receive training in working with facilitators and teens to design a program that’s meaningful for their communities — an approximate $35,000 investment of PHC staff and resources.

“Words cannot express how excited we are to have been selected for Teen Reading Lounge,” said Jean Kosha, program coordinator at Upper Darby Municipal Library. “We are all looking forward to this youth driven initiative where teens are driving the bus and making decisions about what social justice topics we explore, the literature we’ll read, and the activities we’ll do to deepen our understanding of our world.”

New and returning sites hosting Teen Reading Lounge in the 2019-2020 program year are listed below by county:



Laughlin Memorial Library

B.F. Jones Memorial Library


Kutztown Community Library

Muhlenberg Community Library    


Hollidaysburg Area Public Library


Sayre Public Library (NEW)


Cambria County Library (NEW)


Upper Darby Municipal Branch Library (NEW)


Erie County Public Library   


Bradford Area Public Library (NEW)


 Priestley Forsyth Memorial Library  


Free Library of Philadelphia:  Lillian Marrero (NEW)

Free Library of Philadelphia:  Lucien E. Blackwell Branch

Free Library of Philadelphia:  Parkway Central (NEW)

Sunrise of South Philadelphia, Inc. (South Philadelphia High School)

The Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships at The University of Pennsylvania (West Philadelphia High School) 

Catholic Social Services (John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls High School) 


Franklin Public Library (NEW)


Warren Library Association (NEW)

Westmoreland County

Greensburg Hempfield Area Library (NEW)

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. As a key part of its prevention focus, The Philadelphia Department of Human Services provides financial support to operate the Philadelphia out-of-school-time pilot sites.


About the Pennsylvania Humanities Council

The Pennsylvania Humanities Council is an independent nonprofit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities and part of a network of 56 state humanities councils that spans the nation and U.S. jurisdictions.

We put the humanities in action to create positive change. We are passionate advocates, innovative program designers, and strategic grantmakers. We lead a movement to champion and redefine the role the humanities play in our lives. We use the humanities to generate avenues for civic involvement and community development, and for youth and adults to strengthen skills for school, work, and every day.

Learn more at


Dawn Frisby-Byers

Senior Director of Content and Engagement

215.925.1005 ext. 124

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