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READING GROUPS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE.

Library based reading groups for young people encourage voluntary reading and promote the libraries. Libraries are ideal places for them as they provide a friendly, familiar space and access to a wide variety of materials that can be incorporated into a session. Revision of an article published in Newslib November 1999 p19-22

Reading groups for young people based in libraries encourage and promote voluntary reading and the library habit. Libraries are ideal places to hold reading groups as they provide a friendly, familiar space and access to a wide variety of materials that can be incorporated into a session, including stories and information books, magazines, videos, dvds, cds, story cassettes and cdroms.

Reading groups in libraries exist in a variety of formats, from clubs that young people attend on their own or with friends, to groups where parents and carers are encouraged to participate in the session. Because of the different age and ability levels of young people, reading groups have been developed to meet the needs of both children and teenagers.

Groups for children are usually directed at 6-11 year olds. It is at this level that reading groups are most suited to including other family members such as parents, grandparents or carers. Children's reading groups that involve adult family members are commonly known as family reading groups. There are also reading or advisory groups designed to attract 12-16 year olds, often referred to as teenage reading or teenage advisory groups.

Family reading groups

The concept of a family reading group was developed by the London Borough of Southwark Library Service during the mid 90s in a general move to enhance children's library experiences but specifically to explore ways of involving parents in their children's reading development.

Simply put, family reading groups are a regular forum for young people, their parents, carers, family and friends, and librarians to talk about books that they have read or listened to and enjoyed.

Family reading groups also

* encourage and promote voluntary reading and the library habit

* support literacy development within the family

* widen young people's and adults' experiences of children's books

* develop young people's confidence in speaking to an audience

* encourage use of the library by those who would not normally do so

* enhance the library experience for those who already use the service

* provide a focus for close liaison and consultation between librarians, young people and their parents and carers

Structure and format

One of the most important features of a family reading group is its seeming informality. Families arrive at a designated time, and are greeted by the librarian, offered refreshments and given time to browse a display of library materials whilst chatting with friends and family. During this time the librarian talks to group members about materials that they have used since the last meeting and recommends new materials from the current display.

After about half an hour, participants are encouraged to bring themselves and their `good reads' over and sit down in a circle of chairs. When people are seated the librarian greets the group and disseminates information about upcoming events or activities that might interest participants. Then the librarian initiates a discussion about materials that he or she has read or listened to recently. Sometimes other interested staff members also join the group and chat about their favourite reads. Children and parents are then encouraged to talk about materials that they have read or listened to since the last meeting. When each person has finished talking they put their recommended read into the middle of the circle for other people to select from at the end of the meeting.

The forum can include other activities such as quizzes, guest speakers, performances from participants. These can replace a meeting or be incorporated into the meeting.

Organisation

If you are interested in running a family reading group in your library, the following information will be useful in setting up a group. It is a recommended structure only. How you develop and run your group will be determined by your resources and your community's needs.

Frequency

Family reading groups are usually held on a week night and run for one hour, once a month. Based on the needs of your community you will need to decide on the hour and day that allows greatest access to the event.

For group members to feel confident in the service and to encourage a healthy group dynamic, it is recommended that the session is run by the same member of staff each time. This gives participants the opportunity to develop their personal `story' with the librarian, and enables the librarian to develop a knowledge of a member's reading preferences and make meaningful recommendations.

Preparation

You will need to ensure that there is one member of staff available to coordinate and facilitate sessions, from start to finish. If your library is time or space poor you can run the reading group outside of library hours.

If you have created a mailing list through an attendance sheet (see Structure), and intend to alert members to upcoming sessions, reminders will need to be sent out two weeks before.

On the day of the session you will need to

* arrange the library in advance (seating, refreshment table)

* set up displays as required

* purchase refreshments and other items as required

* clear up after the session

Structure

You will need to decide upon a routine for your group, and what the event will include. For example will you: serve refreshments; include quizzes and book review opportunities as regular features; hold special events to stimulate reading, writing and library use; include storyteller, author and illustrator visits in the program?

A suggested structure for a group is

* participants are welcomed as they arrive and young people, parents and carers sign an attendance sheet as this forms the basis of a mailing list

* for twenty minutes young people, parents and carers enjoy refreshments and browse library materials

* librarian informally talks with members about the books they are choosing. If young people have arrived early or choose their books quickly, you could have a family reading group quiz available for them to use

* for thirty minutes in a group (usually a circle of chairs) young people, parents, carers and staff discuss the books they have read and listened to and recommend them to other members of the group

* after a child, parent, carer or staff member has talked about a book, the book is generally placed in the middle of the circle until the end of discussions. Then children can make selections from this group of books. If you have provided children with book review forms, it is at this point in the session that they could share their review/s to the group

* it is in this thirty minute period that you can also hold special events such as storytelling, author or illustrator visits

* for ten minutes issue books, remind families of the next meeting and thank them for coming

Library materials

One of the main purposes of service provision in libraries is to promote resources to the group targeted by the activity. Although family reading groups focus on materials that can be read or listened to, the event provides an opportunity to promote all library resources that might interest the group eg homework materials, cdroms.

Although groups are aimed at young people, their parents and carers, the materials on display are directed toward young people.

Before starting a family reading group you need to decide how you are going to organise the materials for use in a session. It is essential when developing any new promotional service that you liaise with your collection development librarian about the materials you will need for the activity. Things to consider include

* will you buy a separate stock of materials for the family reading group that you use only in this session, or will you use the current library collection? If you use the current library collection, will you stock pile new materials that you can promote at the meeting, or will you rely on what is available in the library on the night of the event?

* how will you promote the materials to the members during the session? Will you bring them out onto a table to make selection easier or put up a display of materials specifically targeted at reading group members?

* are you going to direct the content of the sessions? For example, will you decide on a theme each week and create a display around that theme?

Teenage reading groups

Teenage reading groups based in public libraries have existed in many formats for a number of years. Although they go by a number of different names including teenage advisory group and teenage advisory board, they are all essentially a regular forum for teenagers to meet each other and with a librarian to talk about materials that they have used and enjoyed. The forum also provides opportunities for teenagers to become involved in developing a local library service that suits their needs, something that clearly belongs to them.

Teenage reading groups also

* encourage and promote voluntary reading and the library habit

* encourage use of the library by those who would not normally do so

* support the development of literacy, academic attainment and life skills

* provide a safe and identifiable place where young adults can meet each other and make new friends

* provide a focus for close liaison and consultation between librarians and young adults

Structure and format

The structure and format of teenage reading groups will vary between libraries because `how they look' will be determined by the participants and library resources available. However, for the purposes of scene setting, an average teenage reading group meeting runs in a similar fashion to a family reading group.

Teenagers arrive at a designated time and are greeted by the librarian, offered refreshments and given time to browse a display of library materials whilst chatting with friends. During this time the librarian talks to participants about materials that they have used since the last meeting and recommends new materials from the current display. As there is no formal element to these meetings (young people do not get up in front of their peers and talk about materials that they have used) the time teenagers spend browsing books is a good opportunity for the librarian to do mini booktalks on a wide range of materials.

When teenagers have finished looking at materials they are encouraged to begin the final part of the forum which usually involves an activity, or working on ongoing projects as a group.

Planning

Before involving teenagers in the development of a reading group, it is a good idea to gather together information that will help you to guide the growth of the group. Find out about other teenage reading or advisory groups. Consider all the resources in your community that may be able to help promote, sponsor or resource the group. Develop lots of inspirational programming ideas.

When you are ready to start a group, set up an initial planning meeting with teenagers who are already using the library. If teenagers are not using the library, you will need to outreach to community groups and schools. Develop a poster that you can put up both in the library and the community inviting teens to participate.

At this initial planning meeting, the group can develop and implement a direction for the group. For example, they can design teenage reading group publicity and invitations, identify places where they can promote the group, decide on the format of the meeting, roughly plan the year's events and plan for evaluation at the end of the year.

Teenagers attending this meeting will generate your first mailing list (attendance sheet).

Teenage reading groups on the web

Arlington County <www.co.arlington.va.us/lib/teen/tab.htm>

See YA Around <www.geocities.com/cplrmh/tab.html>

Birmingham City Council <www.birmingham.gov.uk> (follow these links: Tourism & leisure - Library services - Children & young people - Young people - Teenage reading groups)

Organisation

The following structure may be useful in setting up a group.

Frequency

As with family reading groups, teenage reading groups are usually held on a week night and run for one hour, once a month. Most groups are held monthly and some run after school or on the weekend. You will need to identify a day and time that best suits teenagers in you community.

Ideally, the session needs to be run by the same member of staff each time, as this creates group cohesiveness and enables participants to build up a rapport with each other and the librarian.

Preparation

As with family reading groups, you will need to ensure that there is one member of staff available to coordinate and facilitate sessions, from start to finish. Again, if your library is time or space poor you can run the reading group outside of library hours.

If you have created a mailing list through an attendance sheet, and intend to alert members to upcoming sessions, invitations will need to be sent out two weeks before.

On the day of the session you will need to

* arrange the library in advance (seating, refreshment table)

* set up displays as required

* purchase refreshments and other items as required

* clear up after the session

Teenagers are often keen to participate in the setting up and cleaning up process. However, be careful not to make this a compulsory activity as it may deter young people who are required to do a lot of this type of work at home.

Content

You will need to decide upon a routine for your group, and what the session will include. Generally, teenage reading groups do not require young people to stand up in front of their peers and describe materials that they have used. The purpose of the group is to get them working together on projects, which give them opportunities to indirectly recommend materials to each other. Projects that allow this process to occur include

* choosing a name for the group and planning the year's events. This process is an exciting activity for teens to participate in and develops the useful life skill of `forward planning'

* working on publications such as a zines (see <cutnpaste.va.com.au/exhibitions/>) or newsletters. The quality of the publication will depend on the resources that your group has at its disposal. Funding for either a teenage reading group or for a publication generated by the group can be sought from various grant making bodies such as in Queensland, the State Library' s innovation grants. The content of cooperative publications can include lists of cool internet sights; book, magazine, film, music and game reviews; features on favourite stars and on teenage reading group members; horoscopes; sports articles--really anything that goes into their favourite magazines

* planning special events, such as film nights, themed parties, holiday outings and activities, organising guest speakers including writers, theatre workers, social/youth workers, career counsellors, workshops--web pages, theatre, music

Some useful teenage programming sites

Great YA services tour <www.leonline.com/valsa/tour/>

ClickThis <www.clickthis/ws/programs>

Wired for teens: services <www.fresnolibrary.org/teen/programs.html>

YA web at Jervis Library <www.jcrvislibrary.org/yaweb/>

Teen read week activities <www.ala.org/teenread/celebrate_main.html>

Burien Library escape! program <www.kcls.org/kcls/escape/html>

See YA around <www.geocities.com/cplrmh/>

Structure

A suggested structure for a teenage advisory group is

* participants need to be welcomed as they arrive and should sign an attendance sheet as this forms the basis of a mailing list

* for twenty minutes teens enjoy refreshments and browse the display of library materials

* librarian chats with members about the books they are choosing. This is a good opportunity to informally booktalk with them

* for thirty minutes in a group (usually in the youth area) young people and library staff proceed with agreed activities/projects

* it is in this thirty minute period that you would also hold special events such as visiting speakers, workshops

* for ten minutes issue books, remind teens of next meeting and thank them for coming. If, and as, parents arrive to pick up young people, try to engage them in conversation about the value of the group for their children

Library materials

Materials used in the group should appeal to young adults between the ages of 12 and 16. It is possible to use the structure of a teenage reading group with an older age group (17-25 years) only the level of materials need differ. Either way, materials should be chosen from across the range of library resources and include magazines, graphic novels, talking books, appropriate adult fiction and nonfiction, cds, videos, dvds and cdroms.

You need to decide how you are going to organise the materials for use in a session. Again you need to talk in depth with your service's collection development librarian to plan the management of materials to the group. You will need to decide

* whether to buy additional materials for the session, or whether you use the current library collection and put aside new books as they come in so teenage reading group members have first choice

* how will you promote the materials to the members during the session? Will you bring them out onto a table to make selection easier or put up a display of materials specifically targeted at group members?

Promoting reading groups

In order for the community to benefit from family or teenage reading groups held in the library, it is essential to promote them both inside and outside the library.

You will need to create some basic publicity that describes the group/s: session frequency and times, resources available and something about what happens at the group. You need to target the promotion at the young people for whom the group is designed.

This publicity can take a variety of forms--bookmarks, posters, flyers, postcards--depending on resources available for printing. You can involve young people in the design of the publicity. This is a particularly good activity for teenage reading groups to engage in.

The publicity then needs to be distributed to all places that young people frequent. It is also useful to put it in places where parents spend time waiting eg doctors and dental surgeries, laundromats. Remember to promote heavily in your own library. Display posters, hand out publicity to young people when they join and talk to young people and parents about the groups when they are visiting the library.

Some other places to link up with are

* Schools If you are really serious about getting reading groups going in your library, you need to link up with local primary and secondary schools in the area. You will need to talk to the teacher librarian, principal and interested teachers including learning support teachers. Ask to address the students at an assembly. Take plenty of publicity for the librarian to display in the school library. There are other school related groups that can be targeted, such as student councils and parents organisations

* Youth service agencies Within the community there are a large number of youth service agencies you can directly address or disseminate publicity through. This includes group homes, boys/girls clubs, youth counselling services, youth development officers, community health workers, community and church youth groups and sports clubs

* Youth related business Approach business outlets that attract youth and ask to display publicity. It is useful to remind businesses reluctant to display publicity that young people support their business and that this is a way of giving something back to their customers. Try gyms, sporting goods shops, hair salons, clothing stores, fast food (young adult employers), radio, local tv, comic book and music stores, and amusement arcades and parks

* Community Around the community are eye catching places to display publicity eg bus stops, skate parks, neighbourhood centres. There are also organisations that would probably welcome information about this type of public service, such as refugee hostels and ethnic minority groups

* Local media Contact local radio, television and newspapers, school and church newsletters

Invitations

If you are holding reading groups once a month or irregularly it is a good idea to forward publicity to members a couple of weeks before the event. This is particularly useful in larger communities.

The attendance sheet that members sign at the beginning of reading groups forms the basis of this mailing list.

Recognition

It is important to recognise young people's participation in a reading group by giving them a special library card, or a certificate that identifies them as member of the group. This is particularly appreciated by members of family reading groups.

Anne Spelman is the consultant for Young Peoples Services at the Public Libraries Division of the State Library of Queensland. She manages the young people's collection for the Country Lending Service, and offers advice, support and training for librarians throughout Queensland on issues affecting young people. Anne is the president of the Alia Children's Youth Services Section, Queensland. Address: Public Libraries Division State Library of Queensland PO Box 3815 South BrisbaneQld4101 tel(07) 32143214 fax(07)32143244 a.spelman@slq.qld.gov.au
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Author:Spelman, Anne
Publication:Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jun 1, 2001
Words:3517
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