Outcomes, Social Readers, and Totally Wired

I mentioned something about eventually talking about the outcomes project, yes?

[Since explaining the difference between outcomes and outputs is a whole post itself, I’m going to assume you are already familiar with the terms.  Anyone that isn’t can find an easy explanation at this website.]

In deciding what kinds of questions to include on their surveys and focus group guides, the committee wanted to make sure that they were going back to the main goals of summer reading.  First, to encourage kids to read over the break and maintain, rather than lose, the reading skills they had gained the previous school year.  Secondly, to encourage more children and families to come to the library all throughout the year.
But how does one determine if the kids that are reading over the summer are doing so because of the library’s programs – or simply because they would be anyway?  To help answer this question, the committee looked to recent research* about youth that showed that while a certain percentage of youth are, like most librarians, are solitary readers who will pretty much read no matter what, the great number of adolescent readers or social readers – what they read and how much they read is greatly influenced by either peer groups or other social interactions.  So the questions they** fashioned are largely about reading as a social activity, the extent to which the library and the summer reading program fosters a sense of community.

I know a lot of people are worried that always being online will end up cutting into the amount of time people spend reading for pleasure.  However, aside from the fact that being online often IS reading for pleasure, I think that social media can – and often already is – a great way to encourage reading among social readers.

It can be argued that part of the reason for Harry Potter, and especially Twilight’s popularity, is the ease at which youth can share what they are reading on the internet.  Just as tweens and teens find friends and support and like-minded peers online where they may have difficulty finding it offline, fans of certain books can find communities online to help feed and foster their love of reading even if no one at their school is currently reading the same book.  Just as online chat rooms for gay tweens helps foster confidence and consequently GSA’s across the nation, so do fan sites about various books and other media help the fandom grow offline.

Not everything about the internet is full of rainbows and lolcats, but I do think there is a lot of potential for using it to solve some of the problems we think that it’s causing.

*Howard, V. (2010). Teacher- peer influences on young teen readers an emerging taxonomy. Young Adult Library Services, 8(2), 34-41.

(I’m not sure if this is the same article we were given to read, but the article we read was clearly based on this research.)

**we?  except that I came in on only the tail end; they had the foundation all figured out before I was asked to join, I only participated in the later discussions where we tweaked the language.

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Week Six Readings: Realistic Fiction

The students’ toilet was at the other end of the long corridor with the spinach-green classroom doors.  Racing against time, Bastian ran as fast as he could and just made it.
As he sat there, he wondered why heroes in stories like the one he was reading never had to worry about such problems…
“Probably,” Bastian now said to himself, “these things are just too unimportant to be mentioned in stories.”

I’m not sure that whether or not Flipped matches a common experience of tweens is really a useful question.  I don’t know that many tweens have raised chickens, tried to save a tree, or have a mentally disabled uncle.  Or that many have come to the realization that their dad is a bit of a bigot, have a grandfather living at home, and go to a middle school where the booster club auctions off students as a fundraiser.  I think, as in fantasy or science fiction, what readers often relate to in realistic fiction are the larger themes – like facing up to your mistakes and learning to understand others.

Granted, one could generalize the plot and say it’s about a changing friendship, families in crisis, and humiliation in middle school, and most tweens have certainly been through several of those.  But one could say the same of many genre books.

 

We tend to think of realistic fiction as presenting solutions to young readers real life problems, that is what the genre used to be called, after all.  But as Lesesne point out in Naked Reading, that’s not always what readers want, or what is best for them:

This process, called bibliotherapy, can have disastrous consequences. After my daughter died a few years ago, well-meaning teachers encouraged my grandchildren, Natalie, Cali, and Corrie, to read books where a main character died. What those kids did not want was to be reminded of their loss. Instead, what they needed was to find some relief from their sadness. We read books with gentle good humor, happy to find a reason to laugh. It has only been recently, some four years after their mother’s death, that the girls are reading books like The Afterlife by Gary Soto and The Sledding Hill by Chris Crutcher.

All readers want to be able to identify with the protagonists once in a while at least, but that doesn’t always have much to do with why people choose to read realistic fiction.

 

I think that in some ways realistic fiction is rather like fan-fiction in that instead of building a world yourself, you play in someone else’s.  Except that in this case the world is the one we all live in, not a figment of someone’s imagination.  Still, the issues are the same; realistic fiction feels realistic not because of how many readers have experienced what the protagonist has gone through, but because of how well the writer matches the accepted cannon.

I think the trick to writing good realistic fiction is not to make it like reality, but rather, to make it something slightly more – but still believable.

With that being the question, I can say that yes, I think that Flipped feels very grounded in reality and the characters in it are very relatable and recognizable.  While most tweens have not gone through what Juli and Bryce have, many would act as they did, given the same circumstances, and the circumstances are well within the realm of what is likely.

 

Quote from:

 

Ende, M.  (1984) The Neverending Story.  New York, NY: Penguin Books

Serving Young Tweens and Teens: Chapter 2

[ok, now for the actual reflective essay]

As I was cleaning up around the children’s room the other day I ran across a smaller book tucked inside a bigger one – the way people on television will sometimes hide their real reading material behind more acceptable, larger one.  The dummy book was some random graphic novel biography, but the title inside was one of our recently acquired books – an updated version of Joanna Cole’s “Asking About Sex and Growing Up.”

As I was reading Hager talk about her own experiences trying to get the information she was looking for as a tween, I kept thinking about the fact that making sure that your library has a good selection of materials is only half the battle.  The other part is making sure that kids can find the books they need.   This is especially hard when it comes to books about puberty because patrons in general, but especially the younger and more self-conscious tweens, don’t always feel comfortable asking librarians for help finding such materials.  The shyness – or sense of shame – that keeps kids hiding books behind other books makes it nearly impossible for them to ask for help locating such titles.

It’s important to be friendly, helpful, and respectful of privacy when answering reference questions – aside from being important no matter what, it goes a long way towards making the patron feel confident in returning the next time they have a question, no matter what the question may be.  But that still isn’t going to be enough to convince all patrons to feel comfortable going up and asking a near stranger for books about sex.

I’m sure what the solution to this is.  Displays don’t seem quite right, because finding the right book for the right child is especially important when it comes to this topic, and check-outs from displays tend to be impulse check-outs* rather than something that is picked up after looking through all the possibilities to find the perfect title.  (I also work in a fairly conservative part of Southern California, and while I don’t give much though to possible challenges when purchasing books, I do consider it when creating and placing displays.)  I have been wanting to put together topical bookmarks that list several of the titles that we have on that topic [alphabet books, “if you like…” type lists, etc], it might help to do a series on books about sex and puberty.

(now, to only find the time to start this project…)

*I worked in a bookstore for several years before switching to libraries, and I still use some of the terminology – sometimes modified – when there doesn’t seem to be equivalent in library-speak.  Apologies if this means I don’t always make sense.  “Impulse buy” is a common term in retail and pretty much what everything from the displays to the layout of the store was devoted to it.

Serving Young Tweens and Teens: Chapter 2

[This is kind of a rant and doesn’t have much to do with the chapter, but it’s what got stuck in my head after reading it.]

 

I always get annoyed when people bring up tweens and their relationship to technology, but make no mention of the digital divide. People are constantly suggesting that we use technology to market libraries to tweens and teens, and while I do want to try to do more, I can’t count on my tweens and teens having reliable access to technology at home. They have some access – at home and at the library – but what they have is limited by economics. Few would want to spend any of the precious minutes they get on the computers at home (when they have them) and at the library doing anything related to books.  At least, outside of schoolwork anyway, which they already often need to spend much of their allotted computer time working on.

 

What we seem to have the most success with is encouraging tweens and teens to visit the library in order to have access to technology they don’t have at home – or have to share at home, or have trouble sharing at home with their friends rather than their parents or sublings. What I would like to try and do is create more programs that give my kids the opportunity to do the kinds of things that kids who have plenty of access to technology at home spend their free time doing – creative projects like making videos and writing fanfiction. I fear a lot of my tweens and teens will have to enter the adult workforce with fewer technological skills and less confidence in their ability to learn them than their more fortunate peers and I’d like to try and do something to alleviate that.

Programming, Advocacy, and Media Literacy

There are all kinds of ways that programming and advocacy are intertwined, not the least of which is that programming makes patron populations visible, and visibility often means more resources allocated. Even more importantly, though, the programming itself is often a type of advocacy, when done right.

The gold standard for for teen programs are ones that are run by teens themselves, programs that give them a chance to not only make decisions, but also plan and organize, which meets several of the needs discussed at the beginning of the semester. Programs for younger elementary students should engage the imagination and give children a chance to model and practice skills, but are generally highly structured. So where does that leave tweens?

Although it gave programming examples, discussed the needs of tweens, and stated that the former should inform the latter, it felt like the chapter in Serving Young Teens and Tweens didn’t really give useful advice for doing that. When I’m at our “teen” craft (full of mostly tweens) I can see how certain crafts give enough instruction for tweens to master the craft themselves, while still allowing for a plenty of creativity, exploration, and personalization. Just as I can see how running their own club is exactly what the older teens need – and enjoy.

But how do I translate the loose structure of our “teen” crafts to other types of programs for tweens?

Sadly, despite hours of searching, the internet is not helping with this one.

Craft Idea!

I went to Michael’s site to see if CriCuts were on sale (patience Jenny, it’s not close enough to Christmas) and I saw this ad:

ad for craft supplies and project

That would make a pretty decent kid or tween craft, yes?  Instructions can be found here.

Hmmm….how to switch it up so it will appeal to boys too….

Money! Money! Money!

Last night, 0ur Friends of the Library approved the $2,500 I asked for for new stuff/replacement stuff for the kids and teens programs. Woohoo! I ❤ my FOL.

Now…to get busy buying stuff! um…if anybody sees a CriCut and/or PS3 on sale, pls lemmie know. Also, I’m taking suggestions for:

-toys and games that can* be played with quietly by 4-10 year olds and that don’t have a lot of little pieces.  bonus if it’s both educational and tons of fun.  broad values of educational are welcome.

-good video games for tweens and teens, especially games than are multiplayer or good for tournaments

-tween and teen books that have been made into movies and would be popular and interesting choices for book vs. movie discussion groups

crossposted at my elljay

*note the “CAN” – I’m just wanting to make it easy for them to do as they should, I’m not expecting miracles here.