By Serena Zets – 10th Grade, Pittsburgh CAPA
Most people would assume that the last thing teens want to do in the summer is read. If that’s true, what explains the thriving teen summer reading program at the Carnegie Library? Maddie O’Donnell, a four year teen librarian at the Squirrel Hill branch explains: “We’ve changed the program… to be more reading based. According to research, reading five books will help prevent the summer slide. So that’s why we set that as our teen goal.” This year, teens only need to read 5 magazines or books to complete the program, as opposed to harder, more intense programs in past summers.
“We wanted to encourage and celebrate any type of reading. In the traditional sense, it could be something for school. But it could also be something you’re reading online or on your phone,” explains O’Donnell. These strategic tweaks in the program have resulted in higher participation and more enthusiastic response from teen readers. The Squirrel Hill branch leads the pack with the most participants. O’Donnell acknowledges that the Squirrel Hill location is privileged with a prime location in a bustling neighborhood. Thus, she believes that the community involvement is due to the neighborhood’s easy access and exposure to the library.
The library’s employees and patrons extend the summer reading program to other neighborhoods through the whole year. Other teen programs at Carnegie libraries throughout the city include Alternative Homecoming, Teen Time, LABS, and high school visits. Through these programs, librarians work closely with city schools to ensure that teen summer reading is a success. These events raise awareness of the program and offers incentives for teens. Librarians have noticed that participants at these varying events are very diverse and they try to reflect that in their summer reading activities, prizes, and suggested book lists. They have also noticed that a lot of the same teenagers participate in these events.
O’Donnell, like many other librarians, has formed close bonds with the teens that frequent library events. “I never had anything like this… we never had a teen space like this or formal teen summer reading…” says O’Donnell. “I feel a huge sense of responsibility to get as many kids and teens to sign up.” Luckily, the librarians at all of Carnegie branches have succeeded at this, and so much more.
To get involved with teen summer reading, visit your local library or sign up online at the Carnegie Library’s website. No matter how you sign up, it’s a great program. Don’t forget to tell your friends to sign up too!
Serena Zets is a sophomore at Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts High School. At CAPA, her discipline is literary arts where she received the opportunity to take part in an introductory journalism course. She is a resident of Squirrel Hill where she bakes, reads, and most importantly sleeps.