Young Adult librarian, book reviewer and ReadingRants.org founder Jennifer Hubert Swan led the webinar and reminded the audience that just because many teenagers aren't choosing to read for fun doesn't mean they have poor literacy skills. They just likely haven't found a book – that book – that really speaks to them yet. It is your job as a librarian to make that happen.
Jennifer broke her tips down into three different categories: booktalks, programs and contests, and library displays. Because I found her tips so useful as an aspiring youth services librarian, I would like to share them with you. Keep in mind that these are tips for librarians, but could really benefit any parent, teacher, etc. who is looking to motivate teens to read.
Booktalks: A booktalk is basically a verbal advertisement for a book, like a movie trailer is a video advertisement for a film. Booktalks are frequently given by librarians visiting high school classrooms and are meant to encourage a particular book or books to an audience.
- DIY Booktalk: Instead of having the librarian give a booktalk, flip the script and ask a student to tell the group about a book they recently read and enjoyed. Use prompting questions like, "Did anyone read a book about a vampire this summer?" or "Did anyone read a book that a summer movie was based off of?" to start get the conversation started.
- Genre-blenders: Try suggesting books that blend two genres together, like a supernatural mystery or a paranormal romance. Teens might discover a new kind of book that they didn't know existed!
- Gross-outs: Your mother probably told you there was never a place for poop jokes and fart noises – well a booktalk is an exception to that rule. Teenagers love to be grossed out by stuff, and many might be unaware that basically anything goes in today's YA literature. Why not find a scene from a book about booger eating or projectile vomiting? It sounds a bit crazy, but it will captivate your kids.
- Multimedia: Mix up booktalks with websites, book trailers and other videos. This will help spice things up and reach your more visual listeners.
- Pairings: Like fine wine and cheese there is an art to finding two complimentary objects. Try booktalking a fiction and non-fiction book together. You can also try pairing a book with a video, or even a video game with an audiobook. Mixing media is great way to attract to reluctant readers to the written word.
- Playlists: Some books are just meant to have a soundtrack. Have your group of teens come up with a playlist for a particular book's character and explain why they chose the songs they did.
- Reality TV Tie-in: Think of any crappy MTV or reality show you can come up with and find a book with a related theme. Ask the group if they watched a show like Teen Mom recently and then suggest a book where the main character experiences teen pregnancy, or get those viewers of The Bachelor reading a new story about a budding romance.
- Show and Tell: Grab a couple books with big pictures of high interest, like books about tattoos, travel or even Awkward Family Photos. It will get your audience picking up (and talking about) new books!
- Twitter: Trying having a Twitter booktalk challenge by making teens "sell" a book, movie or video game using 140 characters or less!
- Variety: Don't be afraid to switch up your booktalking formats. Choose a mix of graphic novels, audiobooks, films, popular paperbacks and more!
Programs and contests: Libraries are known for their programming and it's a great way to get teens in the doors of the physical library. Once you have them inside, you have their attention.
- Anything But Reading: Use non-reading-related programs to get reluctant readers inside the library like a Battle of the Bands or a cook-off. Be sure to have a display of related books (in this case, popular musicians' biographies or cookbooks) available for teens to check out on their way out.
- Book Buddies: What teenager doesn't want to feel looked up to or appreciated? Pair a reluctant reader with a younger kid and inspire them both to read. With many high schools requiring a certain amount of community service before graduation, having a teen read to the elderly is also a great opportunity. Matching a teenager with a senior citizen who enjoys books but maybe can't read on their own anymore is a great opportunity for all parties involved!
- Book Spine Poetry: Have teens wander through the stacks picking out books based on the titles printed on the spine. Then have them turn those words into poetry by stacking the books on top of each other. This activity will get teens looking at and picking out books based on their titles, but it will also make them more likely to take a peek inside.
- Book Trailer Workshops: Have teens put their multimedia and technology skills to use and ask them to make a book trailer for particular titles. If your community has a local cable access channel, this is a great outlet to show off your area's local teens' skills!
- Brown Bag Books: Have teenagers look through the library for the most boring book covers they can find. Cover those books with brown paper bags and have the teens reimagine the covers. This is an excellent way to attract the artists and designers out there.
- Goodreads Accounts: Have kids sign up for a Goodreads account – an awesome social networking site for book lovers. Once signed up, the teens can connect with their friends, tag or rate some of their favorite books, and get suggestions on what to read next.
- Famous Last Lines: Inspired by John Green's book Looking for Alaska, challenge your teens to match famous people with their last lines said before death. You could also do a similar activity pairing the last line of books with their titles.
- Stump the Librarian: Challenge your teens by saying you can find each of them a book they want to read by the end of the year. This will give you a chance to interact with your readers on an individual reader and make reading more of a contest.
- Stupid Weird Book Hunt: Does your library's collection have weird books about stranded shopping carts or crazy flea market finds? Encourage your teenagers to find some of the strangest books your shelves have to offer and give the winner an even kookier prize.
- Teen Read Week: Visit the YALSA website fore more teen program inspiration.
Library displays: Book displays are a great excuse to pull some books off the shelves and give them some more face-time with your teenaged patrons. Don't be afraid to get creative!
- As Good as Games: Pair circulating video games with tech heavy books like Artemis Fowl or Maximum Ride titles to reach those technology whizzes.
- ARC Shelves: Many librarians and reviewers are privy to Advanced Reader Copies of books. Pick up as many ARCs as possible at places like professional development conferences and create a unique section for them on your shelves. Signs like "Read it here first" or "Read it before it comes out" is a great way to make a reluctant teen reader feel like they have exclusive access to certain books.
- Banned Book Week: A lot of teens would be shocked to see some of their favorites on the Banned Book List – Harry Potter anyone? This activity is a great conversation starter for teens.
- Teens Top 10: Use a display to highlight some of the most popular books for teens, chosen by teens!
- Don't Shelve: A lot of patrons are interested in reading books that they know others have enjoyed. Make a "recently returned" shelf to attract reluctant readers to titles their peers have just read.
- Evil Geniuses: Make a display mixing fiction and non-fiction titles, video games and movies about evil geniuses trying to take over the world.
- Recommended by Magazines: Make a special display for books that have been recommended in popular magazines like People or U.S. Weekly, showing that reading can be popular and "in."
- Roaming Bookmarks: Have a group of teens make "Read-alike Bookmarks" to slip into some of the books in the stacks. Try pairing old classics with contemporary titles!
- Sob-o-Meter: Who doesn't like a good cry now and then? Make a display featuring all the the tear-jerkers you can think of a put plenty of Kleenex boxes nearby!
- YALSA Popular Paperbacks: Running low on ideas? Check out some of YALSA's themed booklists to help encourage reluctant readers to pick up more books!