Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tweens Night @ the Library

Ah, the tweens.

Not really children anymore, but not quite teenagers... What do we do with the tweens?

Well, my library just hosted our first Tweens Night at the Library!

At my library, the Children's Room serves birth through roughly fifth grade and it's located downstairs. Books for 6th-12th grade are housed upstairs in the Teen Scene. Where it gets a little sticky is that transition period from the Children's Department to the Teen Scene. Middle grade readers may start venturing into the teen section on their own because they see a series they like is shelved there. Sometimes this makes mom and dad a little uncomfortable, thinking that their ten-year-old may be exposed to some subject matter he or she is not ready for. And sometimes the kids are reluctant to leave what they know and start looking in a new area.

To help ease the transition for both parents and kids, our teen librarian R and I hosted Tweens Night at the Library. Here's what we did:

First of all, we publicized at all the middle schools as we were doing our Summer Reading Club visits last week. We also sent out publicity through all of our normal channels. I definitely want to do more Tweens Nights, so I'm thinking we may create a list that parents can sign up to be notified when we'll be having our next one. We ended up having 13 tweens, along with their parents, which is a nice turnout for us.

We started up in the Teen Scene and R gave a tour of the area, pointing out the series, graphic novels, fiction, nonfiction, new books, and booklists that are there. Kids who have been using the Children's Room for so long that they know where all their favorite books are shelved now have a better understanding of how the Teen Scene is laid out.

R also talked about the Teen Scene Initiative (TSI), our teen advisory board. We emphasized that this is an easy and fun way for kids to earn service hours and to help us make the library a more awesome place for teens. And also, we always have food. Kids can join TSI starting in 6th grade, so we want to encourage them to get involved.

After the tour and the spiel about TSI, I talked a little bit about how to pick out good books in the teen section. I reminded everyone that we collect books for 6th-12th graders here, so not every book is going to be appropriate for every age. There is some edgier stuff in there, BUT there are also a lot of books that are just right for their age, too.

We shared with them my list of Great Tween Reads as a starting point to some of the great tween books available. I also mentioned the Young Hoosier Book Award nominees, which are different each year. We have some of those in the teen area and some of them in the children's room and they make great choices for kids in 5th-6th grade.

Of course, you practically have to pay me NOT to booktalk, so I shared brief booktalks of some of my favorite tween reads:

Heat by Mike Lupica
Gimme a Call by Sarah Mlynowski
Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman
Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon & Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale
Chasing Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson
Written in Bone by Sally M. Walker
Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

All of them were snatched up after I finished, which is the best compliment a booktalking librarian can receive. I actually received a wonderful compliment from one of the moms, too. She said, "You picked out good books!" And when I told the parents that there's nothing wrong with adults reading teen books, this mom pointed out that reading the books your kids are reading might entice them to actually talk to you!

That is exactly what I wanted our parents to get out of this program - to be reassured that there were appropriate books for their kids in the teen section and that they should be involved in their kids' reading. Of course, throughout the evening, R and I both emphasized over and over that librarians are always here to help parents and kids pick out books that will be appropriate and enjoyable for them. I always tell them that if nobody asked us any questions, we'd be out of a job and that would be very sad for me, so please come ask me questions!

After the book talks, we led the kids downstairs to the Small Meeting Room where we had board games, a make-a-book craft, snacks, and our Wii set up. We let the kids chow down and go to town with the games and crafts. We also did sign-ups for the teen Summer Reading Club. The entire program took about 30-40 minutes and then we let the kids hang out for about 30 more minutes before closing down shop.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable evening with some great kids and parents. It was gratifying to me to see some of the kids I knew from the Children's Room being interested in "moving up" and I hope that everyone left with an idea of some good books to check out. I also hope they will all join TSI and come back for our programs this summer. ;)

Tweens Night is definitely something I'd like to repeat. I'm thinking I'd like to offer it two or three times a year, maybe just after school starts, during Winter Break, and right before school lets out for the summer. I think these are kind of "transition-y" times when kids might be looking for something to read. It was not a difficult program to put together and I think it really served its purpose.

What are you doing to serve tweens at your library?