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In my library, we’re a little obsessed with coding. We’ve been working on a project to introduce computational thinking and free coding resources to kids called Coder Time. For over a year, we’ve been searching for ways to teach our audience some complex ideas by experimenting with apps, activities, and lesson plans to create library programs (you can learn more about it here). While these programs were always for our older kids and tweens, we’ve been amazed at our youngest participants’ enthusiasm to jump right in. As we work with this age group, we keep finding overlap between coder concepts and early literacy skills. For example, play teaches symbolic thinking, a skill important for both reading and coding. Narrative skills help children understand story structure, but also strengthen computational thinking. I’ve recently started incorporating coding concepts into my preschool storytimes. After some trial and error and a mobbed flannel board, here’s what I have in the works:
Coder Values: Collaboration, perseverance, imagination, it’s all about attitude! My favorite book for this is Today I Will Fly! by Mo Willems. Partner with your parachute and kids can work as a team to make Gerald, or your elephant puppet, soar.
Algorithms: An algorithm is the set of instructions you follow to complete a task. Understanding this is the first step in writing a program. I’m using Lois Ehlert’s Growing Vegetable Soup to introduce the seed planting activity found in Course One of Code Studio. I also adapted their “Happy Maps” activity for use with a magnetic whiteboard. In a very simple maze of boxes, we help Bingo find his bone. Apps like Kodable and Lightbot Jr. are too advanced for my preschool audience, so this lets me control the level of difficulty, and give the kids a more tactile experience.
Conditionals: Conditionals are pieces of code that only run when certain conditions are met. They are the If/Then parts of coding. A good introduction is If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff. In looking for other ways to teach this, I found Linda Liukas’s Hello Ruby’spaper dolls. This inspired me adapt our “Teddy Wears a Red Shirt” flannel board. Teddy’s wardrobe has grown to include pajamas, yellow boots and a bathing suit. If it’s raining, Teddy wears his rain boots all day long.
Photo taken by the author of this blog post.
Throughout this process, our approach has always been to give families a taste of the possibilities that are out there, and help them discover that coding can be fun and accessible regardless of your background. As a result, a lot of these are variations on program staples. If you have ideas for other ways of integrating coding into programming for preschoolers, please share!
Brooke Sheets is Children’s Librarian at Los Angeles Public Library’s Children’s Literature Department and is writing this post for the Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee.
#BookADay: SHADOW CHASERS by Elly McKay ( Theater Clouds on FB), published by Running Press. I love Elly's absolutely gorgeous paper-theater lightbox illustrations.
Synopsis: "Once evening paints the summer sky, shadows will come out to play. You must move fast, because as quickly as the wind blows, the shadows will be on their way. Chasing after our hopes and dreams may take many tries before we finally catch them. This magical nighttime story shows that the journey is just as remarkable as the destination."
Elly's new BUTTERFLY PARK just came out from Running Press!
The Restless Books team hopes to raise $20,000 to publish a 400th anniversary edition of Miguel de Cervantes’beloved novel, Don Quixote. This book, slated for release in October 2015, will be the first title from the “Restless Classics” program. We’ve embedded a video about the project above.
Here’s more from the Kickstarter page: “Our mission is to bring great books from overlooked corners of the world to American readers who are not content to limit their imaginations to our borders. We’ll be publishing English-language editions of fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, travel writing, science fiction and more from everywhere from Cuba to China, Pakistan to Chile, Mexico to Uzbekistan. With Restless Classics, we want to bring older books that still speak to our time and place—and especially to our ‘restlessness’—back into the conversation.”
There is now pending legislation in the United States Senate and the U.S. House involving the diversion of justice-involved individuals with behavioral health disorders from standard prosecution. Both bills use the Sequential Intercept Model (SIM), developed by Mark Munetz and Patty Griffin in collaboration with Hank Steadman, as an organizing tool to help structure the proposed law. What is the SIM? How can it be used?
Diversity is one of the issues we really care about at Finding Wonderland, and our eclectic reading list reflects that, we hope. That's why it's thrilling to see publishers Lee & Low really pushing the issue--not only promoting diversity in a... Read the rest of this post
With a strong background in business ownership, Victoria A. Selvaggio comes to JDLA as an Associate Agent with over seven years of actively working as a volunteer and Regional Advisor for SCBWI: Northern Ohio. Drawn to the publishing scene first as an Author writing all genres, with her most recent publication in the 2015 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market, Vicki’s passion for honing the craft carried over into reading manuscripts for the agency. Currently, she is excited to read compelling manuscripts that will resonate with her long after she’s done.
To Submit: Please email a query to (email@example.com.) and put “Adventures in YA Publishing" in the subject line of your email. For queries regarding children's and adult fiction, please send the first twenty pages in the body of your email (for picture book manuscripts—send the full manuscript), along with a one-paragraph bio and a one-paragraph synopsis.
For queries regarding a nonfiction book, please attach the entire proposal as a Word document (the proposal should include a sample chapter), along with a one-paragraph bio and a one-paragraph synopsis of your book in the body of your email. Response: As a note, I “personally” respond to every query I receive, which takes some time. Response time can fluctuate from two to four months and up to six months, depending on my schedule. Feel free to follow up, if you haven't received a response after six months. PLEASE do not email me before six months!
For more information, visit The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency website: www.jdlit.com.
Connect with Victoria: Twitter: Victoria Selvaggio @vselvaggio1 Facebook: Vicki Selvaggio Linkedin: Victoria Selvaggio My Website: www.victoriaselvaggio.com
Now on to the interview!!
What is on your wish list? I am currently looking for all genres (lyrical picture books, middle grade and young adult fiction, new adult, mysteries, suspense, thrillers, paranormal, fantasy, narrative nonfiction, adult fiction), but find I’m particularly drawn to middle grade and young adult. I especially love thrillers and all elements of weird, creepy stuff. If it’s out of the box, and it will make me think and think, long after I’m done reading, send it to me. On the flip side, I yearn for books that make me laugh, cry and wonder about the world.
What are some things you love to see in a query? I love when it’s evident that someone has taken a few minutes to research me (my likes/dislikes), and then addresses the query letter properly, with the correct spelling of my name. I make it a point to address my responses correctly. In addition to reviewing websites, blogs, and other information included. It’s important to me, as an agent, to know why I’m being queried. Connecting with the querying writer is something I look for immediately. For me, I’m looking for long-lasting agent-author relationships, and I appreciate when writers mention other genres and/or other projects (or works-in-progress). While I wish to receive a well-crafted query letter, I’m more interested in one’s manuscript. I’m happy with keeping things simple and to the point.
What are some of the worst things you've seen in a query? While I personally review and respond to all the queries I receive, I’m more open to queries addressed properly. From receiving queries addressed to other agents (mass mailing of agents) to receiving queries addressed to editors and publishing houses. Please, take those extra few minutes! Connecting with a querying writer is important to me. I can’t highlight enough to be professional. Never be rude, and please, don’t ever apologize for not being published.
What makes you a great agent? Honestly…I’m a workaholic. As my clients will note, I’m devoted, patient, and compassionate. I share in all their emotions, good and bad. And I never stop until we reach their goals (revising several times, if necessary, before submitting to editors). Having the background of being Regional Advisor for SCBWI: Northern Ohio for several years, and then working hard at my own publishing goals, I’ve seen the emotions of rejection. I’ve experienced rejection myself. That understanding pushes me to respond personally to every query I receive, in which I often note why the project isn’t a good fit. This, however, does take time.
Character, world, or plot? All are equally important to me. It’s all about balance.
What advice do you have for writers getting ready to query you? While I wish for a well-crafted query letter, be yourself! Query letters tend to be stiff/ boring. For me (all agents are different, so make sure to always submit per listed guidelines), I rather writers relax–be yourself! Give me the needed information, while not forcing it.
Why did you become an agent? We are all destined for the “right” path. Becoming an agent was mine! After several years as Regional Advisor for SCBWI: Northern Ohio, and becoming a published author myself, I found myself limited on what I could do to help writers and illustrators reach their goals. I was able to provide tools (education, motivation, inspiration), but building careers was out of reach, so I strived to make it reachable. For me, I love, love, LOVE, working one-on-one with my clients!
Is there anything you'd like to add that you think our readers should know? As with all professions, becoming a published author and/or illustrator takes education, dedication, and confidence. We all have imaginations and the ability to create, but learning how to hone this craft and bring life to words and/or illustrations, is only reachable for those who are willing to persevere! As with all professions, one should expect rejections, obstacles/challenges, and possibly, when the timing is right, success!
Kobo, a Rakuten company, has partnered with the American Booksellers Association (ABA) to introduce a new program that encourages digital reading on a local level.
The program is called eRead Local and is designed to get ABA members to sell eBooks via Kobo and compensates booksellers for doing so. Participating ABA members will receive $5 USD for every reader they sign up for a Kobo account. In addition, these customers that create Kobo accounts through an affiliate ABA member will receive a $5 USD credit toward their first purchase of a Kobo eBook. Here is more from the press release:
ABA members who acquire 100 new customers will be entered for a chance to win an in-store event with a bestselling author, and those who acquire 50 new customers will be eligible for a chance to win Kobo eReaders for in-store customer contests to help generate further in-store foot traffic.
The program will run for 100 days beginning this summer, with the exact timing still to be decided.
Picture the scene. Scene 1: A group of wildly drunk young men smash a local business to smithereens, systematically destroying every inch, before beating the owner within an inch of his life. Scene 2: A group of power-crazed men (and one woman), driven by an aggressive culture of hyper-competitiveness, commit economic crime on an epic scale.
Today we welcome Catherine Linka to YABC! Zinka's soon to be released sequel to A Girl Called Fearless, A Girl Undone,is sure to appeal to fans of Divergent and An Ember in the Ashes. The next installment in The Girl Called Fearless series will make its debut June 23rd and we can't wait! But for now, Catherine Linka is sharing the top five reasons why she'd like to have her main character, Avie, as her best friend!
Catherine Zinka has been immersed in books her whole life, most recently as a writer and a bookseller. Her debut novel is A Girl Called Fearless, a young adult romantic speculative fiction/political thriller. Catherine lives in Southern California where she watches hummingbirds and hawks when she should be working.
From Catherine Linka, the sequel and explosive conclusion to A Girl Called Fearless.
Having survived a violent confrontation with the US government, Avie is not out of danger. Both she and the young man she loves, Yates, have been declared terrorists, and Yates is hospitalized in critical condition, leaving Avie with the perilous task of carrying information that can bring down the Paternalist party, if she can get it into the right hands.
Forced on the run with handsome, enigmatic woodsman Luke, Avie struggles when every turn becomes a choice between keeping the two of them alive or completing their mission. With her face on every news channel and a quarter million dollar reward from the man who still owns her marriage Contract, Avie's worst fears are about to come true. Equal parts thrilling and romantic, A Girl Undone is sure to keep your heart racing right until the very end.
**All writers fall in love with their characters, but after A Girl Called Fearless and A Girl Undone, Avie’s become really special to me. So here they are:
Five Reasons Why I’d Like My Character, Avie Reveare, As My Best Friend:
1. She keeps your secrets safe.
Confide your deepest, darkest, most dangerous secret to Avie, and she will do everything she can to protect it. Whether it involves a forbidden romance, escape plan, or spy ring, her lips are sealed.
2. She will never give up on you even when you’re messing up big time.
If you’re obsessed with doing something incredibly stupid, like taking out revenge on one of the most powerful men in government, Avie won’t stop trying to steer you straight. Avie is with you all the way.
3. She’s got mad survival skills.
Break your leg on a snowy mountaintop? Need to outfox a private force of exmilitary on your tail? Avie might be be small, but she’s smart and inventive, and she’ll get you both out of danger.
4. She won’t cut and run.
When things get deadly hot, you want a friend who won’t leave you to save herself. Avie’s the friend who only takes off if it will keep you safe.
5. She gets knocked down and gets back up.
Avie’s not perfect and she’s blown it plenty of times, but she owns her mistakes, and keeps on trying. She’s the friend who inspires you to be fearless, because she refuses to give up.
See what I mean? Don’t you want those things in a best friend?
Thank you, Catherine!
We agree, Avie sounds like the perfect best friend! Don't forget to pick up a copy of A Girl Undone on sale June 23rd! And for more information about Catherine and her writing, visit her website HERE!
Mark Ford has been awarded the 2015 Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism, which honors the best book-length works of criticism, including biographies, essay collections and critical editions that consider the subject of poetry or poets.
The honor, given by The Poetry Foundation, was for Ford’s work “This Dialogue of One: Essays on Poets from John Donne to Joan Murray” from Eyewear Publishing. The award includes $7,500 in prize money. The prize will be presented at a ceremony at the Poetry Foundation on Monday June 8. The Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize will also be presented at the ceremony.
\"If more literary criticism were like this, more people would read it,\" British journalist John Lanchester has said of Ford’s work.
Famed feminist activist Gloria Steinem has landed a book deal.
According to USA Today, this projects marks the first time Steinem has written a book in over 20 years. Penguin Random House will release My Life on the Road on October 27th.
Entertainment Weekly reports that this memoir focuses on Steinem’s “experiences on the road and the people she met who influenced her life. Steinem will detail her encounters with both famous faces and not-so-familiar names, all of whom were important to Steinem’s journey. She’ll also write about how the nomadic state of her life also played a major role in her roles as a journalist and activist.”
Argentinian publisher Pequeno Editor and ad agency FCB Buenos Aires teamed up to launch the Tree Book Tree program. The mission behind this venture is to create books that can become trees once they are planted into the ground.
The Huffington Post reports that the “tree book” features a children’s story called Mi Papá Estuvo en la Selva (which translates to My Dad Was in the Jungle in English). Click here to watch a video to learn more about this program.
According to Adweek, the materials used to make these “”hand-stitched” books include “acid-free paper, jacaranda seeds, and ecologically friendly ink.” The executives hope “to teach kids 8-12 where books come from—not the Internet, as some probably believe.” (via Good Magazine)
One branch of the D.C. Public Library is hosting an exhibit called “Building Wonder, Designing Dreams: The Bookmaking of Brian Selznick.”
This display showcases the works of the Caldecott Medal winner behind The Invention of Hugo Cabret. It can be found inside the Great Hall of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.
According to the organization’s website, visitors will be able to “enter Selznick’s books; the pages are 8’ tall and 18’ wide,” “open the drawers in the ‘Cabinet of Wonder,” and “play with a wooden automaton.” A closing date been scheduled for June 21st.
Julius Eastman (27 October 1940-28 May 1990)—composer, pianist, vocalist, improviser, conductor, actor, choreographer, and dancer—has left a musical legacy worthy of special attention. Now is a prime moment to attend to Eastman and his work, as we recognize and honor the loss of this significant musical figure just twenty-five years ago from today.
Hachette, Simon & Schuster, Worthy, Regnery, Beaufort and Dunham Books are among publishers test driving a new social media marketing tool for publishers called BookGrabbr.
The online marketing tool allows publishers to give away eBooks or sections of eBooks in exchange for a social share from consumers. The idea is that by giving consumers book excerpts and requiring them to post about it on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, that they will spread the word about the book with their networks and the book’s will take off virally.
BookGrabbr relaunched its platform at BEA this week in New York with more than 2,000 titles in its library. The tool allows publishers and authors to analyze who is downloading and previewing books to help understand their readership and use this data to inform marketing efforts. The tool also has an automated push function, so that authors posting on their own social media sites can automatically promote the book “grabb” to their networks.
Two new clips have been unveiled from a new Macbeth film adaptation. The videos embedded above and below showcases Michael Fassbender as the tragic King of Scotland and Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth. According to Deadline.com, Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie, and Todd Louis collaborated on adapting William Shakespeare’s famed play to write the script.
Filmmaker Justin Kurzel served as the director of this project. The movie was recently showcased at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. A theatrical release date for United Kingdom audiences is set for October 2nd; no United States date has been scheduled yet. (via The Guardian)
Hastag is the word of the year among children writers, according to a new study from Oxford University Press (OUP).
OUP examined 120,421 short stories by children between the ages of five and 13 that were submitted to the BBC’s 500 Words competition to see which words were most popular. The research found that words like Instagram, Snapchat and emoji are on the rise as words like email, mobile and Facebook are in decline.
The research also revealed that girls are often writing about princesses and royalty and using words such as “princess,” “charming,” “unicorn” and “majesty.” Boys on the other hand are more often writing about dinosaurs and super heroes using words such as “raptor,” “Jurassic” and “Batcave.”
Paul Pope is one of the indy comics/small press stars to emerge from the 1990’s. Premiering in 1994, his self-published comic THB is the futuristic story of a girl living on Mars with her super-powered, inflatable bodyguard. It’s hard to categorize Paul Pope’s work. I see that THB often gets lumped in with other genre indy comics of that era, like Jeff Smith’s Bone and James A. Owen’s Starchild. I see his work fitting better in the alternative/small press sphere, at least stylistically speaking. Maybe that’s just a testament to the uniqueness of Pope’s work; his fluid line work and stark sense of design.
Paul Pope has been living and working in New York City for most of his career. He’s created comics for many of the major comics publishers, including the multi-Eisner winner Batman 100 for DC Comics.
Recently, Paul Pope created the graphic novel Battling Boy for First Second, with the follow-up titled The Rise of Aurora West.
You can keep up with all things Paul Pope on his website here.
For more comics related art, you can follow me on my websitecomicstavern.com– Andy Yates
Big Top Burning investigates the 1944 Hartford circus fire and invites readers to take part in a critical evaluation of the evidence The fire broke out at 2:40 p.m. Thousands of men, women, and children were crowded under Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s big top watching the Flying Wallendas begin their death-defying high-wire act. Suddenly someone screamed “Fire!” and the panic began.
By 2:50 the tent had burned to the ground. Not everyone had made it out alive. With primary source documents and survivor interviews, Big Top Burning recounts the true story of the 1944 Hartford circus fire—one of the worst fire disasters in U.S. history.
Its remarkable characters include Robert Segee, a 15-year-old circus roustabout and known pyromaniac, and the Cook children, Donald, Eleanor, and Edward, who were in the audience when the circus tent caught fire.
Guiding readers through the investigations of the mysteries that make this moment in history so fascinating, this book asks: Was the unidentified body of a little girl nicknamed “Little Miss 1565” Eleanor Cook? Was the fire itself an act of arson—and did Robert Segee set it?
Big Top Burning combines a gripping disaster story, an ongoing detective and forensics saga, and World War II–era American history, inviting middle-grades readers to take part in a critical evaluation of the evidence and draw their own conclusions.
How did you approach the research process for your story? What resources did you turn to? What roadblocks did you run into? How did you overcome them? What was your greatest coup, and how did it inform your manuscript?
Laura at the circus
When I wrote the first draft of Big Top Burning, a nonfiction account of the 1944 Hartford circus fire, I had only dipped a toe into the giant pool of research that was to inform the final book.
I began the project in graduate school as an independent study in writing nonfiction for young people. That summer, I researched and wrote the entire first draft!
Of course, this was before I was married, before I owned a house, and before I had a child. My research consisted of reading the three (at the time) nonfiction books for adults on the subject, and reading every newspaper article on the fire from 1944 to date that I could find – mostly from the "Hartford Courant" and the now defunct "Hartford Times."
The best thing I did was to interview a few survivors of the fire. They’d been children at the time and were so gracious in sharing the stories of their narrow escapes.
The interviews were gold. However, the newspaper articles, while primary sources, often held inaccurate information. The disaster happened quickly, and as reporters rushed to get information to the public, all sorts of false information found its way into their stories. And the adult books were secondary sources. I needed to form my own conclusions about the tragedy and the mysteries that surrounded it.
Then in 2009, I won the SCBWI Work In Progress grant for nonfiction, and that gave me the inspiration to keep going and to dig deeper. I used the money to travel to Hartford where I discovered the extensive circus fire archives at the Connecticut State Library. I spent several weekends at the library, diving into boxes of police records and witness statements, looking at crime scene photos, and even listening to a tape-recorded interview with the suspected arsonist, Robert Segee.
I’d be immersed for five hours at a time, and when I left I was exhausted, hungry (no food allowed in the archives area), and feeling victorious every time. I truly felt like a detective, collecting the clues to form a complete picture of the events that happened at the circus that day. Thank goodness for the librarians who collected and cataloged boxes and boxes of materials on the circus fire. It’s really due to them that authors like me are able to write such complete accounts of the tragedy.
As I continued to revise and send my manuscript to various agents and publishers, I interviewed more survivors. Interestingly, they seemed to appear wherever I went.
At the Boston Public Library, a gentleman who saw my research materials spread out on a table stopped to tell me his tale of survival. When my father was recovering from heart surgery at Hartford Hospital, he discovered his roommate was a survivor. My high school chemistry teacher (who always told us to keep our backpacks out of the aisles) shows up in one of the photos in my book. And I was able to interview my fifth grade teacher, who had been in the hospital having his tonsils out when they brought the first burn victims in.
I feel honored to be entrusted with their stories and proud to have written a book that will pass on the story of the Hartford circus fire to future generations.
Memorial to the Hartford circus fire victims, built on the former circus grounds. The bronze medallion indicates the location of the center pole of the big top tent.
How did you go about identifying your editor? Did you meet him/her at a conference? Did you read an interview with him/her? Were you impressed by books he/she has edited?
When I sent out my manuscript on submission, I had done my research. (I’m a member of SCBWI after all!) I began by querying agents who represented nonfiction authors, and I looked specifically at those who had worked with narrative nonfiction for older readers. I got some great feedback but no takers.
I turned to querying editors directly, trying all my contacts through writer friends and through SCBWI. Still lots of lovely rejections.
But I had my eyes open. I snoop in the backs of books to find out the names of the author’s agent and editors, which are often listed in the acknowledgements. I read quite a few blogs about writing and books for kids and always make note of agents or editors who publish work similar to mine, or work I think I’d like to write in the future.
Two months after my query, Lisa sent me an offer letter.
After this experience I truly believe that if you write a good book, you will find a home for it—you just have to keep your eyes open and stay persistent. I wrote the first draft of Big Top Burning in the summer of 2005 and just a mere ten years later, I’m incredibly proud of its debut in 2015!
Katy O’Donnell has been brought on to the Nation Books team.
O’Donnell will serve as an associate editor. She will work with editorial director Alessandra Bastagli.
Throughout her career, O’Donnell has held editorial positions at Overlook Press and Basic Books. Some of the books she has edited include Edward Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, John Merriman’s Massacre: The Life and Death of the Paris Commune, and Eugene Rogan’s The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East.
Whether you know the teens that frequent your library or not, disabilities can be hard to see. If you’re lucky, teens and their parents may be open about disabilities and how you can help them get the most out of their library experience. And if you’re not lucky, well, sometimes you'll deal with behaviors or unsatisfying encounters that make you wonder if you helped the patron at all. Thankfully, making your summer reading activities seem inviting to teens with disabilities is easy to do. With just a few tweaks to what you already have in place, your program can be inclusive! This way, it doesn’t matter if you know what disabilities you’re dealing with, or if you’re just taking a wild guess. Check out these tips, and share your ideas and notes on what works and what doesn’t in the comments.
Have a visual sign-in sheet.
Hang a poster in a prominent place that shows teens what to do to sign up for summer reading. List the steps in simple terms, like: wait for the librarian; sign your name; pick your challenge. Have visual aids printed next to each step, like a photo of the librarian in charge of summer reading and a pencil signing on the line. Make a similar poster to show how to log weekly progress. This will help teens with disabilities be independent when they come to the library to participate, rather than feeling like they always have to ask for help.
Divide tasks by reading challenge rather than by age.
Instead of having elementary aged kids sign up for a certain challenge, and having teens sign up for another, let everyone pick their own challenge. Read three books a week, read for an hour a week, listen to two audiobooks a week— the possibilities are endless! This empowers teens with disabilities to challenge themselves on their levels, and also shows other patrons that reading can take on a variety of appearances!
Expand your program to be a learning challenge.
Instead of a straightforward summer reading program, some libraries are hosting summer learning challenges by partnering with city attractions to promote learning and interaction all summer. Some learning challenges have a theme, like Explore & Roar at Chicago Public Library focusing on animals and the environment. Reading is still important, and patrons can read anything they want, but there is also an aspect of taking that knowledge and discovering things in the city’s museums, zoos, and historical sites. The City of Memphis offers free days to many city attractions to encourage involvement with the summer library program Explore Memphis. All of these experiences can tie back in with Makerspace programs at the library or other community centers.
Collaborate with the school system.
Reach out to the school system, especially the special education department, and find out what books are required reading for the upcoming school year. Make sure your library has plenty of copies available, and ask how you can make this reading easier on students with disabilities. The library could host a book club meeting during summer reading to talk about one of the required texts, or plan a program based on a book or elements from the story. Reading the book in advance and being able to talk about it with others or relate to it in another way could help teens with disabilities stay on track in the upcoming school year.
Make your program known.
After your library collaborates with the school system, make sure promotional materials are handed out to students before the school year ends. Make it clear that everyone is welcome to participate in summer reading so the special education teachers and students know they should join in! Also consider sending promotional materials to summer camps for teens with disabilities, therapy centers, and intramural teams, as well as any day centers for people with disabilities in your area.
Encourage teen volunteers.
When teens are signing up for summer reading, ask if they’d like to volunteer to help with any aspect of the program. (This goes for teens with or without disabilities!) Teens can help their peers sign in or update their progress. Teens with disabilities might not want to be in the spotlight, so they can work behind the scenes, helping set up for programs or cleaning up after parties.
Work in small groups.
A lot of Makerspace activities are individualized, but can easily be adapted to work in small groups. A teen with disabilities who might not be able to make something on their own can be part of a team and still participate. Break the activity into steps where the team has to plan their project before they build it, and then can present it to the entire group. Circulate often so you can offer help to everyone, without seeming to focus on the teens with disabilities, while making sure they know you’re available if they need you, and that it’s ok to get help. Check out YALSA’s Maker & DIY Programs for ideas.
Let’s be honest, it’s easy to get distracted regardless of your age or attention span! Depending on their disabilities, some teens may get more distracted than others, and some distractions can quickly lead to disruptive behaviors. Teens with autism might not be able to focus on spoken words if there is also music playing, even if others just consider it background music. It can also be distracting to hand out too many items at the same time, or give instructions all at once. Start by talking slowly and outlining what’s going to happen at the event; it’s helpful to make visual charts, as mentioned in the first tip! This way teens know what’s going on and in what order, and can look back to it often, without interrupting the program flow.
Even if the program doesn’t seem long, taking a few short breaks will help everyone stay focused. Put these on the schedule so attendees will know they when they can go to the bathroom or grab a drink without having to interrupt the program. These breaks can also give teens with disabilities time to process what they’ve done and prepare for what’s coming next. It’s also a good time for you to check in with them and make sure everything’s ok, and see if anything can be done to help them engage more easily.
Roll with the punches.
We know that nothing ever goes according to plan, but when you’re including teens with disabilities, things could get derailed easily. Instead of throwing away your whole schedule, make sure you have substitutes for each part of the program, and even changes you can make individually for the teen who needs a little help. If the music is too distracting, turn it off, even if it means scrapping a part of the event that involved dancing. If the art supplies are too messy, have some alternatives (or even gloves!) so all teens can be involved in the program in their own way. It can be a bit tricky when you’re adapting a specific activity for teens with disabilities: you don’t want to seem like a pushover, but you do want to be accommodating and helpful. For more information on this balance, check out YALSA’s resources on Serving Disabled Teens.