Teen Reading Lounge

Creating a safe space for PA youth


years of
research-driven programming


across the state


of sites serve
lower-income youth

Built on the belief that encouraging youth to choose creative programs based on their own interests is crucial to adolescent development, PA Humanities created an award-winning, unconventional approach to book clubs that offers a safe space for ages 12 to 18. The humanities naturally push young people to ask questions and share ideas, which are vital activities to discovering who they are, who they want to be, and their role in their community. Participants work together to co-create the reading list and design projects that connect themes in their selections to tangible action in their communities. With support from trained facilitators, they learn to hear from different perspectives and apply the questions from the readings to the world around them. Teens are proud to report on stronger interpersonal, communication, literacy, and critical-thinking skills and increased confidence thanks to Teen Reading Lounge.

Teen Reading Lounge builds:

  • 21st century skills advocated by the Institute for Museum and Library Services
  • Civic engagement and leadership skills
  • Reading comprehension, literacy, speaking and listening skills
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Self knowledge, empathy, and cultural literacy
Teen Reading Lounge participants at Muhlenberg Community library.

In spreading this program through communities across the state, PA Humanities not only invests in the outcome of our young residents but also helps position libraries and afterschool sites to reconsider how they serve youth and where they can innovate. In addition to funding for program expenses and an honorarium for a program facilitator, we also provide professional development to educate facilitators and libraries on strengthening and sustaining youth engagement. PA Humanities holds proactive bi-monthly meetings and presents both in-person and virtual trainings on topics such as positive youth development, social emotional learning, and culturally responsive education.

Teen Reading Lounge was honored as a finalist for the 2015 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award. It was also named 2015 Afterschool Champion by the Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network.

Examples of the Humanities in Action

  • In Upper Darby, teens engaged Representative Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05) in an hour-long conversation about issues they were concerned about: education, gun violence, the environment, and mental health issues.
  • In Aliquippa, youth participants got a chance to sit in the director’s seat and help produce a video about their recent environmental work cleaning up their neighborhood.
  • A YA novel about families held in internment camps led to teens in Erie launching a project to help those experiencing homelessness.
  • The library of Lackawanna County was awarded a PHC Cares grant to provide anti-racism/mental health kits to children and adults.

Insights from the Lounge

“Teen Reading Lounge] is a good way to go out and actually meet people and discuss things that you otherwise probably wouldn't discuss. I went from being really socially awkward and an introvert to not being as much of an introvert.”

- Participant, Priestley-Forsyth Memorial Library

“My library sees teens coming in and ‘owning’ the library—it is theirs. Their responsibility, a place they love and are welcomed into. We are watching the future of this building, the concept of a library, transform. We are the hub of the community, especially to our teens.”

- Jacki Clark, Teen Reading Lounge facilitator and site coordinator at Muhlenberg Community Library

"I feel welcomed in this room and, for once, being one of the only Black kids isn't a bad thing. People are nice and understanding. They have open minds.”

- Participant, Muhlenberg Community Library

“On the news we see adults shouting at each other and getting upset. Teen Reading Lounge gave us a positive example of how you can discuss complicated issues and that has really grown my interest in being a more participative citizen.”

- Participant, John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls’ High School


Teen Reading Lounge is made possible by Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services administered by the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, Department of Education, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, Governor. The views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this website do not necessarily represent those of the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services or the Department of Education, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Additional support is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, generous individuals, foundations, and corporations.

You can help create a safe space for the youth and encourage them to get involved in their community! If you’re interested in bringing Teen Reading Lounge to an area near you, reach out to us at hello@pahumanities.org.

Stay Up To Date

Sign up for the PA Humanities newsletter now.