February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Bright Ideas Abound at YALSA’s Summer Learning Workshop

For decades, libraries have used summer reading clubs as a fun way to keep kids engaged with books and breach “summer slide,” the academic backslide that commonly happens after being away from the rigors of the classroom for a few months. This approach has been successful, particularly with young children. However, almost universally, participation wanes as kids enter their teen years.

The Young Adult Library Services Association’s (YALSA) “Summer Learning Workshop: Going Beyond the Traditional Reading Program” tackled that challenge, starting the 2016 Midwinter Meeting off on a productive note. Organized and run by Jennifer Luetkemeyer from Florida State University School of Information, and funded by a grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, the three-hour session addressed ways to rethink and retool this tired model into a more valuable one that aligns with the YALSA Programming Guidelines and the tenets of connected learning.


From left to right: Monnee Tong, Ileana Pulu, Jamie Bair, Jennifer Luetkemeyer, Lucretia Miller, Jack Martin, Jeremy Dunn

Lucretia Miller, a school librarian and president of Florida Association of Media in Education, spelled out what connected learning means in a public library setting.  She also offered ways to create programs driven by teen interests that develop their skills. Miller said the program should operate within a peer network, with teens working toward a defined goal, one which will benefit not only themselves, but the community as well.  The library can be the place to bring teens together with community resources, fostering  peer-to-peer learning.

Jeremy Dunn, director of teen services, Chicago Public Library, offered sound rationale for expanding one’s focus from summer reading to summer learning, largely based on addressing the 40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents. Underscoring Miller’s comments, Dunn proposed the question “What can youth do for the community?” and noted the value of experimentation—and failure. He spoke about the Next Generation Science Standards and encouraged looking at life as a design problem, which gives young people the freedom to explore and put group ideas into practice.

After Dunn’s presentation, there was a breakout session, in which we looked at traditional summer reading programs and then re-envisioned them through the connected learning lens, including community-sourced resources and support.

Last up was a terrific panel of practitioners from large systems as well as small libraries who shared their successful summer learning programs. Ileana Pulu, Visitacion Valley branch manager and former teen services librarian, San Francisco; Monnee Tong, manager of the Pauline Foster Teen Center, San Diego Public Library SDPL; and Jamie Bair, outreach coordinator, Marshall Public Library, Pocatello, ID presented innovative ideas, such as a gaming tournament/workshop on how to get into the gaming industry, including coding and marketing.

The teens in San Diego’s Idea Lab Tech Team photographed and interviewed SDPL staff to create an exhibition called Citizens of Central based on the Humans of New York project. Rhode Island teens got involved in a local history project.

All in all, it was an excellent professional development workshop that aided those dealing with teens in rethinking how they expend their energy and resources and coming up with good ways to bring their services into alignment with YALSA’s report, The Future of Library Services For and With Teens: a Call to Action.

Much of the resources, research, and suggestions offered can be found in YALSA’s The Complete Summer Reading Manual.


Luann Toth About Luann Toth

Luann Toth (ltoth@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor of SLJ Reviews. A public librarian by training, she has been reviewing books for a quarter of a century and continues to be fascinated by the constantly evolving, ever-expanding world of publishing.

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