Teen Reading Lounge is an award-winning, 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.
In Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 Bridgeville Public Library explored The Hunger Games trilogy during its Teen Reading Lounge program and saw an opportunity to take the program beyond the library to teach their teens real life skills. Taking inspiration from the trilogy’s main character who is an expert archer, the teen librarian and the facilitator planned a field trip to a local archery range so that teens could “live the book” and understand what it took to survive in the wilderness.
“We contacted a local archery instructor, and he was open to bringing the teens in,” the program facilitator said. “Some teens were empowered by the experience and some came away with a reverent understanding of using a bow and arrow, but all left with better knowledge of the protagonist and the real-life skills she had.”
The library also added special activities to round out the program and complement discussion. For example, an expert came into the library to conduct a workshop on metalworking so teens could make Hunger Games ‘rebellion bangles,’ which figure prominently in the second book. Teens designed their bangles and learned to use tools like a mallet.
“We did this after hours,” said the teen librarian. “The teens loved having a space of their own, and they could be as loud as they wanted to be.”
In addition to engaging activities, the library also built in clever incentives that tied directly to the book so teens would continue to come back. “If you’ve read the book, you know that kids are chosen for the Hunger Games through a process called the reaping,” the teen librarian said. “We reversed that to make it positive and put participants’ name into a prize hat every time they attended a session. The more times you attended the more chances you had of winning a prize. We held our reverse reaping ceremony at the end of the program and the teens loved it.”
Creating a program that went beyond the page had a positive effect on the teens who participated.
“There was a group of five 8th graders who were particularly struck by the program,” the teen librarian said. “These kids really enjoyed being able to speak freely and have their opinions heard.”
The program facilitator echoed this thought, saying,“The teens' ability to connect themes in The Hunger Games with current events [like theOccupyWall Street Movement] and issues has really impressed me. Teen Reading Lounge gives them a chance to think critically in a non-school environment, with less pressure. The librarian and I work really hard to dignify and respect the teens, their experiences, and their opinions, which may not always be what they feel like they get at home or at school.”
The library made several smart decisions as they designed their program: they picked a timely book that was hugely popular with the targeted age group; they provided fun incentives that let teens experience the book, and they encouraged connections between literature and real life. All of these decisions yielded an engaging program that kept teens coming back for more.
“Our attendance numbers were incredible considering the short time the library had offered services specifically for teens,” the program facilitator said. “Our retention was 100%, which was truly amazing. I think the great marketing by the librarian, the timeliness of The Hunger Games, and the incentives were what made us successful.”
Learn more about Teen Reading Lounge and participating program sites across the state.