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Library Programs

    Kid's Programs Programs

    The Land of Stories: Five Activity Ideas for Library Programs

    LOS1Chris Colfer's THE LAND OF STORIES

    Today the second book in the Land of Stories series, The Enchantress Returns, will be released.  I’m pretty biased when it comes to the author so instead of a review I bring you program ideas. This would be a great tween program as the audience for the book extends past it’s middle grade-ness.

    Versions of Fairy Tales

    Alex and Connor’s teacher talks about how the original versions of stories have been lost to modernization and Hollywood versions. Why not check your collection for various versions of the same story and have the kids compare and contrast? Do a little research and share the oldest version you can find as well. Sur La Lune Fairy Tales will get you started.

    Writing Activity:Fairy Tales from a Different Point of View

    “What the world fails to realize is that a villain is just a victim whose story hasn’t been told.”

    Challenge students to write a version of a fairy tale from the point of view of the villain. You could share The True Story of the Three Little Pigs to get them thinking. How would the witch in Hansel and Gretel explain her actions? What about the tailor in the Emperor’s New Clothes?

    Fairy Tale Improv

    For a more active game get silly with favorite stories. Pick a couple of well known stories and several ways to perform them like fast forward, slow motion, super sad, cowboy style etc. Make a spinner with each of the styles and have participants spin the wheel and volunteer to act out the story in that particular style.

    Make a Map 

    Provide large sheets of paper and let kids create a map of their own imaginary world just like Chris Colfer did as a child. Here is the author’s childhood map of The Land of Stories and the professionally illustrated version from the actual book.

    Chris's map

    TheLandofStories_MAP (1)

    Fairy Tale or Literary Wanted Posters

    In The Land of Stories Goldilocks is a wanted criminal. Have students create a wanted poster for her or another literary criminal. This could easily extend beyond fairy tales to other literary bad guys like Count Olaf or Bellatrix Lestrange.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, my pre-order copy should be here any time.

    Writing Wednesdays

    Writing Wednesday: First Lines



    Welcome to my new weekly feature: Writing Program Wednesdays. Every week I’ll be sharing a different idea to encourage writing. Some weeks will feature teen ideas, some weeks school-age, and some preschool.

    Great First Lines

    This week’s idea works great as a meeting for a regularly meeting writing club, but is fun for a standalone program too. This can work for middle grade readers and up.

    1. Gather a collection of great first lines from books appropriate for your audience.

    2. Share the first lines with the group and talk about what makes them great. Do they build suspense? Introduce a character? Set a mood? Establish a setting?

    3. Have the group go and look for books they love with great first lines. Give them five or ten minutes and then share and discuss these with the group.

    4. Give the group a set amount of time to come up with as many first lines for original stories as possible.

    5. Share and discuss the results and have group members identify first lines they would like to turn into longer stories.


    Why Programs?

    With some of the discussion lately about how others in the profession see youth services and especially youth programs I wanted to talk about a topic I personally find very important: the point of doing programs. I’m going to talk specifically about teens, but nearly everything applies to all ages.

    Programs are an investment. Even programs that are cheap materials-wise take staff time and energy and require the public to invest time and energy.  So, with all that time and energy, and often money invested why do we do programs?

    1. We do programs to encourage the development of reading, writing, and other literacy related skills.

    These are your more traditional library programs like book clubs, writing groups, and essay contests.  We give teens a chance to explore words and information outside the restrictions of the classroom often helping them improve without them even realizing it.

    2. We do programs to promote the collection.

    We want our materials to circulate, we want our collections to be used.  We want our patrons to understand how our materials, both fiction and non-fiction fit into their lives. Programs provide an exciting and hands on introduction to a subject that allows us to promote related resources. A Hunger Games or zombie survival program helps us share readalikes, a prom fashion show is the perfect introduction to the beauty and fashion collections.  All programs should promote the collection at least a little.

    3. We do programs to provide expert information.

    We bring in experts to share information that teens need to know. Some of the more common topics include college planning, finance, and health topics but really the only limit is our imaginations and our patrons’ interests. Not only do teens learn the information itself, but we’re also teaching them where to find credible sources of information in our community. Some of the more successful programs of this type I’ve put together include recognizing and getting help for abusive dating relationships, healthy snacking, and job interview dress and behavior.

    4. We do programs to engage teens in the library.

    While we hope that all programs do this the ones we offer mostly with this goal in mind are often the most controversial. These programs are ones like mini-golf in the library, ice-cream socials, and life-size board games. While they don’t always do 1 or 3 they occasionally do 2 and they nearly always do 6 and 7.

    More than that they can serve as a patron’s first interaction with the library and are essential in reaching previously under-served populations. All the other goals we have of promoting reading, registering users, creating life-long learners, and being indispensable to our community will not happen without some type of first contact between patron and library.  Programs are often that first contact.

    5. We do programs to allow teens to express themselves.

    Teens need creative outlets and art and other creative programs in schools have taken tons of cuts.  For older students they often don’t get opportunities to explore art, music, or creative writing if they don’t happen to be talented in it. If you ask second graders if they like to draw almost all of them will say yes, but the kid who drew the sort-of-piggish-cow looking animal is not taking art in high school. They still might want to pick up a pencil or a glue gun. These kinds of creative activities help teens explore their identity, whichever part of that they might be embracing at the moment.

    6. We do programs to provide a structured social setting.

    In her book I Found it On the Internet  Frances Jacobson Harris said,  “If play is a child’s work socializing is a teens.”  Programs as a structured social setting have lots to offer as far teachable moments about sharing supplies, appropriate boundaries for content and use of materials, following directions, interacting with unfamiliar peers and adults and many other things. Additionally we all know that bored teens in the library will make their own entertainment and that usually doesn’t work out well for anyone involved.

    7. We do programs to build developmental assets.

    By now I assume you are familiar with the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets. They really are a great reference point for working with youth. In fact, they now have asset lists for younger children as well. These can be really helpful not only in thinking about what we want teens to get out of programs, but for explaining to administrators and other stake holders why youth programs are so important. Here are just a few of the developmental assets supported by youth programming in the library:

    • Other Adult Relationships | Young person receives support from three or more nonparent adults.
    • Community Values Youth | Young person perceives that adults in the community value youth.
    • Youth Programs | Young person spends three or more hours per week in sports, clubs, or organizations at school and/or in community organizations
    • Reading for Pleasure | Young person reads for pleasure three or more hours per week.
    • Interpersonal Competence | Young person has empathy, sensitivity, and friendship skills.
    • Cultural Competence | Young person has knowledge of and comfort with people of different cultural/racial/ethnic backgrounds.

    Libraries with teen volunteer programs and that embrace youth participation through advisory boards can build even more assets. There is nothing better that you can do for your library and your patrons than to work with teens to create programs and let them take leadership roles if you can.

    I hope the next time you come up with a program idea a little outside the box, or better yet your teens suggest one to you, you can think through these ideas and find a way to explain why doing that program matters.