What if? . . .
So I have a 3-year-old with some mild but chronic health issues and we have spent some time here and there in Children’s Hospital. So last night when I was awake at like 2 a.m. I started thinking (because what else is there to do at 2 a.m. except think and read): What if Children’s Hospitals across the country had small branches of libraries inside their walls? Then, the children and teens who were there could go to the library and check out books to read. We could do storytimes for the younger kids and some fabulous teen programming for the teens. We could have a basic resource center for the parents and teens as they learned more about navigating what was going on with them. They could have a moment of normalcy after dropping through the rabbit hole of health issues.
Which then got me thinking about the Kohl’s Cares for Kids project. Kohl’s sells children’s books for $5.00 each – which as you know is a great price – and the net proceeds go to support your local children’s hospital. I always buy these books (they change quarterly I believe) in part because I want the books, but also because I want to support my local children’s hospital. The books are usually a series of 4 books by the same author and they also have stuffed animals from the stories for $5.00. The stuffed animals are great to put on display in your children’s area or give away as prizes. But what if they included a couple of teen titles for $5.00 each? In fact, if you work for Kohl’s and have stumbled across this blog post please consider adding teen books to your Kohl’s Cares for Kids line. Teens suffer from health issues too, and they need books! How fun would it be to go to Kohl’s and get a series of John Green or Meg Cabot or whoever books for $5.00 each! Plus it would send a great message to teens in Kohl’s searching for the latest Candies or Sketchers wear: Reading matters to teens, too!
The fact that Kohl’s doesn’t include teens just highlights what an uphill battle us teen librarian’s have in fighting with a culture that on the surface often doesn’t appear to support teens or encourage teen reading. Everyone knows that children need books – but we often forget that teens need them, too. They need access, they need modeling, they need encouragement. Especially teenage boys. There is without a doubt a large amount of fabulous teen titles being published today for teens, but at $15.00 a pop that can impede access in poorer communities. And in pop culture there are tons of examples of teens striving for stardom, but not many examples of teens reading and striving for academic excellence or scientific innovation. So let’s change the culture. Let’s send a different message: reading is the norm, reading is fun, reading is everything.
I recently read about a community where the police officers hand out free ice cream coupons to kids they saw wearing a helmet while riding their bikes. What if communities gave out free food coupons to teens that they saw walking down the street and carrying a book, or sitting in the park reading one? That would send an amazing message: we value reading.
Books can be the spark that bring about innovation and change. Books can be the tool that help a teen cope with a life situation, such as a serious health matter. In fact, the upcoming John Green title The Fault in Our Stars deals with teens can cancer (so how appropriate would it be for it to be a part of the Kohl’s Cares for Kids project, see). You can see the exclusive book trailer at ew.com. I read a preview chapter on the Kindle and it is, as always, amazing – I can’t wait to finish it.
That is part of what I want to try and accomplish with the2012project. But it is only 1 step. To change a culture, we need a lot of baby steps. See what happens when I don’t get any sleep, I get all revolutionary. Plus, you know, I was up reading the John Green sample and that is uber inspiring. So this day, let me thank all my fellow teen librarians for fighting the good fight. You rock. And thanks to all the amazing teen authors out there, you make our job easier and fun.
Also, to be a part of the revolution you can sign up to give out books on World Book Night, which is April 23rd. Thankfully some of the books being distributed include popular teen books like The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Can’t get much cooler than that.
Have a happy but revolutionary Friday!
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About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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