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1. 21c Library Takes the 21st Century by Storm


What better way to launch the library of the future than with Star Wars characters and a robot ribbon-cutter at the opening ceremony?

The aptly named 21st century Library recently made its grand debut in Colorado Springs on June 23rd. Nicknamed the “library of the future”, this contemporary athenaeum boasts sewing machines, 3D printers, and sophisticated computers. Not to disregard the written word, 21c Library has also laid claim to hundreds of fresh new books for curious minds—many more than the closed Briargate branch 21c was upgraded from. Having personally been inside the spacious new building, I can attest to the glowing modernization.

Though the project cost a staggering 10.7 million dollars—including purchasing the new location building, adding renovations to the 120,000 square foot area, and adding in cutting-edge technology—the library holds no debt in its dusty record books. Rather, the opening has led to the creation of 30 to 35 new jobs and has involved much of the Pikes Peak Library District’s administrative workers. Not to mention the generation of innovation and learning it will create.

Originally the small operating budget had forced library officials to consider constructing an entirely new building for the library—a decision that would have cost more money and, by consequence, have left less money for modern amenities at 21c. Fortunately, at the corner of Chapel Hills Street is a building—the once former home of MCI Communications Corp—that has lain dormant for nearly a decade, patiently waiting for PPLD to unload books into its empty halls.

Once the deal was closed and PPLD’s claim was laid, 21c Library was born. Within three short weeks, books, movies, CDs, magazines, and book tapes were loaded into boxes at the Briargate Branch and shipped off to their new home. Having gone to the tiny Briargate Branch for many years, walking into 21c for the first time was a huge shock: to my left was a business center filled with desks and new computers; to my right, a community room and theater seated for 400. There are two levels in the building. The top is geared towards new features less commonly associated with libraries (3D printer anyone?) while the bottom floor contains the usual (Kids Area, Teen Room, and books, books, books galore).

Once I adjusted to the size of 21c, it was really the technology that reeled me in. The 3-day check-outs have experienced an upgrade: rather than just plucking one off the shelf and checking it out manually, hot new DVDs are housed in a kiosk. This may not seem like groundbreaking technology—just like a vending machine for movies, right?—but the kiosk involves a more complicated programming algorithm than hitting a button and receiving the corresponding candy bar. When you first step up to the kiosk, the touchscreen prompts you to slide your library card—a move that inevitably means the kiosk is wired to the library’s vast database. Once you are checked in, there are a wide variety of fresh games, movies, and CDs to choose from. When one is selected, the machine will check it out for you—no other work required—and spit out an encased DVD for your viewing pleasures.

This is actually one of the less advanced parts of the library. There are the Biblioteca check-out stations, which lodge small spaces to put check-out items into. Forget tiredly holding the book’s bar-code in front of that blinking red light—put up to three items in this space and the check-out stations will not only find the bar codes for you, but scan them in as well. Not to mention the 3D printers (which I haven’t yet had a chance to investigate but am eager to do), sewing machines (need to stitch on an extra button?), and spanking new computers with wide, beautiful screens.


Computers are dotted all over the library for convenient use.

Beyond inspiring young minds—or minds of any age, really—to innovate through all the new technology installed, the library is inspiring the old-fashioned way: books. The main book display sitting on the lower level hosts books about technology leaders like Steve Jobs, books about making companies and businesses geared towards creativity and modernism, and just plain old books about technology. And sitting between all those stacks of pages is a computer motherboard (in case someone needed more inspiration). The annual summer reading program PPLD organizes for children is also geared towards the future; the theme—Fizz, Boom, Read!—centers on robotics and awards nifty prizes relating to the subject (robotic arm anyone?)

Speaking of robotics, guess what cut the ribbon to open this new library? That’s right: a robot. After Coronado high school’s student-designed ribbon-cutter opened the doors to hundreds of eager spectators, the team of students held demonstrations throughout the day about robotics and what their team does throughout the year. Though their presentation only lasted for the day, the library will be hosting plenty of contemporary activities year-round to take the ribbon-cutter’s place. There are web design classes in the HTML programming language for anyone interested in getting a website off the ground (eager to start a blog?), Teen Technology Tuesdays, and even a Computer Basics course.

In any case tomorrow’s leaders and today’s thinkers need a break, there are game rooms filled with all the new gaming technology to check out. Technology has been implemented to help advance us—but every advancer needs a break!

While at first I was upset to see my beloved Briargate Branch go, I am inspired every time I walk into 21c to go out and innovate for the future. Library of the future indeed.


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2. Khristine’s Mad Skillz (And a side review of the Audiobook for Dreams of Gods and Monsters)

Audiobook review by Elisa  DREAMS OF GODS & MONSTERSWritten by: Laini Taylor Narrated by: Khristine Hvam Length: 18 hrs and 11 mins Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Book 3 Format: Unabridged Release Date:04-08-14 Publisher: Hachette Audio Program Type: Audiobook Audible In this thrilling conclusion to the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, Karou is still not ready to forgive Akiva

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3. THE KISS OF DECEPTION by Mary E Pearson {Review}

Review by Elisa  THE KISS OF DECEPTIONby Mary E Pearson Series: Remnant Chronicles (Book 1)Hardcover: 496 pagesPublisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (July 8, 2014)Goodreads | Amazon In a society steeped in tradition, Princess Lia’s life follows a preordained course. As First Daughter, she is expected to have the revered gift of sight—but she doesn’t—and she knows her parents are perpetrating a

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4. IDOLS by Margaret Stohl {Review & Giveaway}

Welcome to today's stop in the IDOLS blog tour!  IDOLS is book 2 in the Icons series. About The Book By: Margaret Stohl Published by: Little Brown To Be Released on: July 8, 2014 Series: Icons #2 Add it to GoodReads Purchase it From: Find A Retailer/Book Story near you The Icons came from the sky. They belong to an inhuman enemy. They ended our civilization, and they can

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5. In Case You Were Wondering . . .

This week I've done a lot of reading (for me), but with exception of ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER, they've all been books that either (1) I didn't finish, (2) ended a series, or (3) weren't Young Adult.  So I thought I'd catch you up on some things I liked, and one that I didn't. * * * IN THE END is the second book in the IN THE AFTER duology.  I really, really liked IN THE AFTER, so I

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6. BURN OUT by Kristi Helvig {Review}

"Review my books" review by Dystopian Books BURN OUT by Kristi Helvig Release Date: April 8, 2014 Publisher: Egmont USA Page Count: 272 Format: ARC Genre: YA/Sci-Fi Most people want to save the world; seventeen-year-old Tora Reynolds just wants to get the hell off of it. One of the last survivors in Earth's final years, Tora yearns to escape the wasteland her planet has become

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7. THE TRUTH ABOUT ALICE by Jennifer Mathieu {Review}

"Review My Books" review by Claudette Melanson THE TRUTH ABOUT ALICE by Jennifer Mathieu Age Range: 12 - 18 years Grade Level: 7 and up Hardcover: 208 pages Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (June 3, 2014) Goodreads | Amazon Everyone knows Alice slept with two guys at one party. When Healy High star quarterback, Brandon Fitzsimmons, dies in a car crash, it was because he was sexting with Alice.

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8. Fantasy FTW!

Review by Andye MIDNIGHT THIEF Midnight Thief #1 by Livia Blackburn Age Range: 12 - 18 years Grade Level: 7 - 12 Hardcover: 384 pages Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (July 8, 2014) Goodreads | Amazon Growing up on Forge's streets has taught Kyra how to stretch a coin. And when that's not enough, her uncanny ability to scale walls and bypass guards helps her take what she needs. But when the

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9. OTHERBOUND by Corinne Duyvis {Review}

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10. DOROTHY MUST DIE by Danielle Paige

"Review My Books" Review by Paola @ Don't Fold the Page DOROTHY MUST DIE by Danielle Paige Hardcover: 464 pages Publisher: HarperCollins (April 1, 2014) Language: English Goodreads | Amazon I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero. But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know? Sure, I've read

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"Review My Books" Review by Ri @ HiveretCafe IN THE SHADOWSby Kiersten White & Jim Di BartoloAge Range: 12 and up Grade Level: 7 and upHardcover: 384 pagesPublisher: Scholastic Press (April 29, 2014)Amazon | Goodreads From the remarkable imagination of acclaimed artist Jim Di Bartolo and the exquisite pen of bestselling author Kiersten White comes a spellbinding story of love, mystery,

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12. SLEEP NO MORE by Aprilynne Pike {A RMB Review}

Reviewed by Natalie Sleep No Moreby Aprilynne Pike Hardcover: 352 pages Publisher: HarperTeen (April 29, 2014) Language: English Goodreads | Amazon Charlotte Westing has a gift. She is an Oracle and has the ability to tell the future. But it doesn't do her much good. Instead of using their miraculous power, modern-day Oracles are told to fight their visions—to refrain from interfering. And

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13. Building Trust

YA author Jessica Khoury writing over at NPR gave me food for thought on my approach to working with tweens and teens. She describes how, despite living in a very conservative area and in a very conservative family where reading Harry Potter was NOT allowed, she convinced her parents to let her read the series. Their trust in her and her honesty with them was a powerful influence on her life.

Her post resonated personally for me.

As a tween, kids that I hung around with were often grounded - a way to keep wayward, mostly harmless but definitely annoying tween behaviors in check. When I asked my parents why I never got hit with this punishment, their reply changed my life in a way that was similar to Khoury's experience.

Mom and Dad said they trusted me and trusted my decisions. As long as I made good decisions and demonstrated that I could be trusted, they would not ground me. If I made poor decisions, they would treat me like other kids  - grounded! Their trust was a huge gift and just blew me away.

I made sure that I made good decisions from then on, knowing that I was entrusted with their trust. Combined with their willingness to share the knowledge of it with me, this trust kept me from doing some incredibly stupid things. And it opened up a channel of dialogue and communication with my parents that created a deeper relationship because we knew we could all talk together.

I have tried to include that element of sharing and trust in all my work with tweens and teens and have received positive results back far more than I  have received negatives. Kids want trust and want to share. As a caring adult in their lives, all librarians can take this step. And all we have to do is support them....and give them our trust - and our honesty.

Graphic courtesy of Pixabay

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14. The Stepsister's Tale by Tracy Barrett {Review}

The Stepsister's Tale by Tracy Barrett Ages: 12+ Hardcover: 304 pages Publisher: Harlequin Teen (June 24, 2014)' Jane Montjoy is tired of being a lady. She's tired of pretending to live up to the standards of her mother's noble family-especially now that the family's wealth is gone and their stately mansion has fallen to ruin. It's hard enough that she must tend to the animals and find a way

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15. HOUSE OF IVY & SORROW by Natalie Whipple (RMB Book & Audiobook Review}

HOUSE OF IVY & SORROW by Natalie Whipple Paperback: 368 pages Publisher: HarperTeen (April 15, 2014)/HarperAudio Narrated By Brittany Pressley Language: English Goodreads Amazon Audible Transparent author Natalie Whipple is back with another refreshing blend of realistic romance and light-hearted humor with a one-of-a-kind paranormal touch. Fans of Charmed, Kiersten White's Paranormalcy

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16. I Wasn't Going to Read This Book, Then I Did

by Andye WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart Age Range: 12 and up Grade Level: 7 and up Narrated by: Ariadne Meyers Length: 6 hrs and 27 mins Format: Unabridged Release Date: 05-13-14 Publisher: Listening Library Program Type: Audiobook Goodreads Amazon Audible A beautiful and distinguished family. A private island. A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy. A group of four

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17. NIL by Lynne Matson {RMB Review}

Review by Meghann @ Becoming Books NIL by Lynne Matson Hardcover: 384 pages Publisher: Henry Holt, an imprint of Macmillan (March 4, 2014) Genre: Young Adult – Science Fiction Goodreads Amazon On the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have exactly 365 days to escape—or you die. Seventeen-year-old Charley doesn’t know the rules. She doesn’t even know where she is. The last

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18. THE LOVELY AND THE LOST by Page Morgan

Review by Elisa The Lovely and the Lost Book The Dispossessed #2 “Darkness Dwells in Every Heart” Page Morgan Age Range: 12 and up Grade Level: 7 and up Series: The Dispossessed Hardcover: 368 pages Publisher: Delacorte Press (May 13, 2014) Goodreads Amazon Ingrid and Gabby Waverly moved to France expecting a quiet reprieve from London gossip, but the truth they face in their new home has

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19. YA Mythbusters

Okay, let's face it--a lot of books and movies don't accurately address teenage life. Like, I, for one, have never hit my head on a chandelier while drunk-dancing, which unfortunately means that I haven't been caught by a conveniently-placed Heath Ledger, either (womp). So let's examine a few of the misconceptions, shall we?

  • Bullying isn't as bad as it used to be.
    • *DISCLAIMER: My concept of "used to be" is drawn almost exclusively from nineties chick flicks.* Bullying is different, sure. It's needling. In a lot of cases, it's subtle. Lots of passive-aggressiveness, gossping behind backs, snide remarks followed by "Ehmahgawd, I'm just kidding! Lighten up!" Honestly? I've seen two primary kinds of bullying:
    • First: within cliques. You fall in with a group of people, and you let them step all over you and talk down to you. So that they'll like you. So that you'll have someone to sit by at lunch. You swallow their crap, you wake up the next morning and do it all over again, and eventually, you forget how to stand up for yourself. Or why you should.
    • Second: there are certain kids that a grade or an entire school will mark as "okay" to bully. Maybe they're not good in social situations. Maybe they don't shower as often as everyone else. Maybe the committed some stupid faux pas in middle school and people still won't let go of it. Whatever the reason, these kids get bullied. Their classmates bully them, and the worst part is, they don't recognize it as bullying it. Once, I confronted one of my friends about her stupid comments to a kid in band, and she replied, "Oh, come on. Look at him. He brings it all upon himself." Hell, even the teachers do it.
    • Example: there was this story a while ago about a group of kids that voted someone unpopular onto a dance court, and how the school/community wouldn't stand for it. It was a beautiful story, but why was that news? Because it's rare. At my school, they've voted someone unpopular onto basically every dance they've held since my freshman year, and our administration barely even addresses it. It's horrible and disgusting and people don't think twice about playing a prank like that, because your part is so small. One click on the computer next to someone's name. You laugh. They don't. You don't ever think of yourself as the antagonist in a story. We are not villains. We are not heroes. We are hormonal. Sometimes we make mistakes, and sometimes we don't. 

  • Cliques aren't as bad as they used to be.
    • I have a friend who puts it like this: "They tell us not to label, but we can't help it. We put people in categories--it's biological. We label and then everyone tells us that labeling is bad, so we lie and say that cliques don't exist." To be clear, it isn't like Mean Girls. It isn't like there are the cool Asians and the nerds and the jocks, and no one intermingles. But there are definitely friend groups, and since my school is a very athletic-oriented one, most of them were formed around the teams you were a part of. And there's definitely a social hierarchy.
    • But then again, I've heard from friends at bigger schools that say that the social structures aren't as rigid as they used to be. It definitely depends on who you ask.

  • Teens are lazy.
    • Here is a typical day for me:
      • 4:30 a.m. Wake up, write (this has been more sporadic this year, because damn, my bed is comfortable. And you could argue that most teens don't get up to meet a deadline. But a lot of sports teams have morning practices, and some classes are held during zero period. There's not a lot of sleeping in).
      • 6:30 a.m. Start getting ready for school: last minute homework, morning routine, etc (this also varies. Like, at the beginning of this year, my morning routine was pretty standard: makeup, hair, and so on. I gave myself a break on No Makeup Mondays and Sweatpants Fridays. Now it's No Makeup Everyday and I'm lucky if I wear real pants twice a week).
      • 7:45 a.m. Get to school, go to the coffee shop, etc.
      • 7: 55 a.m. - 3:10 p.m. School. There might be a study hall in there if you're lucky.
      • 3: 10 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. After-schools. Sports practices (though during tennis season, I rarely get home before seven. On game days, you get home anywhere between 8:30 and 11:30 or later. Games can be on Mondays, Tuesdays, or Thursdays. Except varsity football and boys' basketball, which have games on Fridays). When your sport isn't in season, you might be in the weight room, editing the newspaper, attending open gym, or doing some other extracurricular.
        • ALTERNATE: 4:00 p.m. - 9 p.m. (ish): this seems to be a popular work slot for most teens.
      • Whenever you get home, you finish everything else that needs to get done. I play piano, and I try to get in an hour or two of practice a day, but that's not always possible. We have two-three hours of Calculus homework 2-3 times a week. Three reading assignments for reading per reading. Spanish vocab tests, economics packets, and a lot of online work for science classes--all in all, anywhere from fifteen minutes to six hours of homework per night. Keep in mind that the six hours of homework could fall on a night on which we don't get home until ten or eleven.
    • So you see why it's frustrating when the protagonists in YA literature have no homework to worry about and don't seem to care about anything but their love interests? Jesus. Obviously I'd rather be thinking about Benedict Cumberbatch's cheekbones than conic parametric equations, but I also don't want to fail Calc. So drop some stuff, you suggest. Don't take on more than you can chew. You don't need to be in so many extracurriculars. BS. You do whatever you think it'll take to get into college. You snatch as many leadership positions as you can. You take every AP course even though you don't need most of them for the career you have in mind. And you claw your way along while trying to keep your class rank, in order to get scholarships.

  • Teens procrastinate.
    • Okay, so the psychologist Roy Baumeister once did this experiment during which he had two groups of students, right? He put one group of students in front of an oven full of baking cookies and gave them a bowl of radishes, saying the could eat as many radishes as they wanted but weren’t allowed to touch the cookies, and left them alone. The second group was allowed to eat as many cookies as they wanted. After thirty minutes, he gave both groups the same math problem. The group that got to eat cookies solved the problem way faster because the first group had already used up their store of mental energy. Willpower is a real thing, guys. After four years with a schedule like the one outlined above, you don’t have a ton of it. You replenish it with a good night of sleep and a good meal, right? But have to skip dinner at least a few times a week and get maybe five hours of sleep. My sleep deck is the goddamn Titanic. And it isn’t just me, it isn’t just because of writing—most of my friends are stressed. Like. I’m sitting here trying to remember if there’s one of us who hasn’t burst into tears at some point during this last year.
    • Another thing: all of our teachers, coaches, advisors, etc. tell us to prioritize. So we do. But prioritizing means that something has to come first, right? And everything else has to come after that, and that makes people mad. So prioritize really means this: Put my subject first. My sport. My club. And we’re in a stage of our lives where we really need to be liked, and when a teacher/coach/advisor is unhappy, we take it a lot harder than I think most people realize.

  • Teens are shallow.
    • So, I have a love affair with Buzzfeed. But this article pissed me off. At lunch on Friday, my friends and I talked about the gender gap, internalized misogyny, The Handmaid's Tale, and the tendency to fulfill expectations whether we want to or not. After school, we went out for coffee and talked about statutory rape, abortion, tried to figure out our political opinions, and acted out scenes from Frozen.

  • And a personal peeve: High school dances are no longer a thing.
    • A lot of schools have done away with them due to low attendance, but the low attendance is caused primarily by rules about physical contact. For example, a few of our local schools saw a sharp decline in dance attendance after forbidding grinding. People don't buy tickets because the high school dance becomes more of a middle school formal, wherein you stand in your stupid little gender-segregated circles and jump around in time to the music. Less attendance = fewer tickets sold = less money to hire a DJ and buy decorations = crappy music and crappy decorations = an even small attendance for the next dance. So if schools do away with dances, that's usually why, not because we're too busy snapchatting/Facebooking/Tweeting/etc. But on the other hand, schools that do allow grinding tend to have pretty high attendance numbers. So are high school dances dying out? Should they? Meh.
    • Also: Jeez, CNN. Lighten up on the nostalgia. If you want, you can come to my school and relive your prom in our cafeteria, where on dance nights you walk in and smack into an almost-literal wall of heat slide around on the very literally sweat-soaked floors.

What do you guys think? Did I miss anything important? Leave below in the comments, and I'll do another post. Also, what do you guys think of having a Twitter chat about this? YA authors, do you have questions or want to do a fact-check on your contemp manuscripts?

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20. Such an honor to be recognized…in Writer’s Digest Magazine!

writers-digest-may-june-2014I’m so thrilled to hear that Writer’s Digest Magazine (in the May/June issue) gave me A+ for social media for teens!(beaming and beaming) What an honor, and such a good feeling!

And Debbie Ohi’s (a fellow Toronto writer, illustrator, and friend) website is in the top 101 websites again (and so well deserved).

Thank you so much to Maureen L McGowan for letting me know!

I get a digital subscription to Writer’s Digest magazine, but I don’t have the May/June issue yet. And I so prefer paper magazines any way; they’re so much easier to read, what with the sidebars and such. I have to go buy myself a print copy! (grinning)

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21. Identifying unexpected strengths in adolescents

By Johanna Slivinske

Think for a moment, back to when you were a teenager. What were you like? What did you enjoy doing? In what did you excel? The positive activities in which we partake in adolescence shape our adult lives. In my case, playing the clarinet in band and competing in extemporaneous speaking on the speech team molded me the most, and became my personal strengths.

360px-Chambre_adolescentMusic and the creative arts continue to influence my writing and speaking, and many of these facets of my professional life can be traced back to strengths developed and built upon in my youth. Another strength was the fact that I had a loving, kind, and caring family. This provided me with a solid foundation for life, and in a sense, these protective factors in my life made me resilient. However, strengths can also be found in unexpected venues, perhaps peering through the cracks of hardship.

  1.   Adolescents might find strengths through their failures in discovering that they are able to get back up after falling. When teens fail, and continue to try despite the failure, they show a level of resilience, diligence, and perseverance.
  2.   The communities of adolescents, even if less than perfect, can be a source of strength. Creating dialogues about community leaders may benefit teens that need role models in their lives. It can help them figure out whom they aspire to be similar to in character and in positive personal qualities. A community leader can be anyone who functions as a responsible person in the community, or anyone else who cares about the well-being of the community as a whole.
  3.   Acting out behaviors may be viewed through a strengths lens if those behaviors are a response to traumatic experiences such as community violence or sexual assault. The nonproductive response of acting out behaviors during adolescence may be reframed therapeutically as a survival mechanism or a stepping-stone leading toward a more productive path of healing and growth.
  4.   Instead of viewing quirks, eccentricities, or diagnoses as negative qualities, these may sometimes be perceived as qualities that foster the creation of unique perspectives and promote divergent ways of understanding the world.
  5.   When everyday necessities are lacking from adolescents’ lives, they may learn to be resourceful. Resourcefulness may entail surviving under extremely stressful circumstances or learning how to “make due” with limited resources. Teens may have learned how to cook for themselves, or they may have asked friends to share clothing with them. These are examples of using the strength of resourcefulness under difficult circumstances.

When working with adolescents and their families, it is essential to focus not only on their problems, but also on their strengths. This may sometimes present as a challenge, but if you search intensely, with an open mind, strengths may be identified and built upon as a solid foundation for life. This contributes to the fostering of resilience in adolescents and their families.

Hidden or obscured strengths, when perceived in a positive manner, may serve as methods of coping or means of survival during times of stress. Even when strengths are obvious to professionals, adolescent clients may not be aware of their own strengths, and may benefit from therapists’ ability to identify, recognize, and name them. Through working with adolescents, it’s possible to identify strengths and help them learn more about themselves and what makes them unique, so that they can grow to become productive members of their communities.

Johanna Slivinske is co-author of Therapeutic Storytelling for Adolescents and Young Adults (2014). She currently works at PsyCare and also teaches in the Department of Social Work at Youngstown State University, where she is also affiliated faculty for the Department of Women’s Studies.

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Image credit: Chambre de jeune français. Photo by NdeFrayssinet. CC-BY-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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22. Meet a New YA Star, Tora From “Burn Out”

Seventeen-year-old Tora Reynolds is one of the last survivors on Earth when the sun starts to burn out way ahead of schedule. She is tough and sarcastic which has helped her to survive, yet she also has a vulnerable side that comes out when she comes across fellow survivors.

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23. {Audiobook & Book Review} The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

THE GEOGRAPHY OF YOU AND ME by Jennifer E. Smith Age Range: 12 and up Grade Level: 7 and up Hardcover: 352 pages Publisher: Poppy (April 15, 2014) Buy the book: Amazon AUDIOBOOKPublisher: Hachette Audio Narrated By Leslie Bellair, Corey BradberryWhispersync for Voice-readyLength: 6 hrs and 29 mins Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City apartment

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24. Teens Today! They Don't Read!

This week's panic about teens is reflected in two articles, NPR's Why Aren't Teens Reading Like They Used To? and Time's Study: The Number of Teens Reading for Fun Keeps Declining. Both are based on Common Sense Media's research, Children, Teens, and Reading.

Disclaimer the first: long time readers of this blog know I'm suspicious of Common Sense Media, dating back to the early, biased reviews. I'm skeptical of a set up that says, if you don't agree with their ratings, or research, you don't have "common sense" and there is something wrong for not agreeing. That said, with the corrections to the earlier reviews, I do pass along the website to those parents who want to count curse words and kisses.

Back to the research and the news stories. I wish there had been more thought put into them.

I have little patience with "the kids, they are not reading like they used to" because any type of dismissal of teens today has to be done by selecting a time period and socioeconomic section that is selected to make today's teens look bad. The article, 120 Years of Literacy (the National Center for Educational Statistics), explains that "However, in the late 19th century and early 20th century, illiteracy was very common. In 1870, 20 percent of the entire adult population was illiterate, and 80 percent of the black population was illiterate." Or let's go up in time a bit, to 1940: "In 1940, more than half of the U.S. population had completed no more than an eighth grade education."

According to the History Channel article on Child Labor, in 1900, 18% of all American workers were under 16.

These types of reports can never go too far back in time if they want today's teens to look bad, because the further back you go, the less literate the population was, the less time teens had for recreational activities, and the less access people had to books. (In terms of access to literature and the cost of books, see The Smithsonian's How the Paperback Novel Changed Popular Literature.) (And then there is the history of public libraries in the US, and reading and literacy.).

So -- yes -- I'm not going to panic when teens today may read less than they did 30 years ago but more than they did 80 years ago or 100 years ago or 150 years ago. Whether that is even true is something Kelly Jensen is examining in her post on this over at  Stacked.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, the thesis is true: kids read less now.


Common Sense Media reaches the conclusion that the fault is in "reading environments" -- "electronic platforms on which children read also hold a host of divisions that are only a click away."

From NPR: "The studies do not say that kids are reading less because they're spending more time online. But [Jim Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media] is convinced that's at least part of the answer."

Time gives a nod to another possibility: "The decline in reading for fun is most easily explained by technological advances (i.e., kids would rather text than read), but education could have something to do with it as well. It’s no surprise that 53% of 9-year-olds read for fun every day, but only 19% of 17-year-olds do. Yes, the teenagers have more Instagrams to post, but they also have more homework to do."

Common Sense Media looks only at studies other groups have done on time spent reading, not on "why". Their report only talks about one possible reason: electronic distractions. (And in talking about ebooks, Common Sense Media does not acknowledge that ebooks have given the print disabled access to books they otherwise wouldn't have.)

Here is a quick list of some of the other reasons teens today may not be reading as much.
  • Increased homework, as Time points out.
  • Increased testing and emphasis on testing in schools.
  • Elimination of school libraries and librarians.
  • Decreases in funding for books for school libraries. 
  • Closings of public libraries.
  • Decreases in funding for books in public libraries.
  • A recession that resulted in less spending money by families (parents and teens) for books.
  • Bookstores going out of business.
  • Increased emphasis on extracurricular activities to get into college.
  • Teen burn out during the school year.
  • Teen employment.
  • A culture that views reading as passive and consuming, rather than active and creating, so doesn't support reading as an acceptable recreational activity.
I'm sure you can add one or two things to this list

What most of these have in common? They are things beyond the control of a family; and they don't have to do with ereading and devices.

One last point. And I say this as someone who loves reading and books.

When it comes to kids and recreational reading, here are the questions I have. Look at those readers from 30 years ago. Look at them now. Do they have better jobs? Are they earning more money? Did they go on to higher education? Are they happy? In other words, does reading for pleasure mean anything other than.... someone likes to read for pleasure?

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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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25. THE DARK WORLD by Cara Lynn Shultz

Reviewed by Elisa THE DARK WORLD Dark World #1 by Cara Lynn Shultz Series: A Dark World Novel (Book 1) Hardcover: 384 pages Publisher: Harlequin Teen (May 27, 2014) Goodreads Amazon Paige Kelly is used to weird—in fact, she probably corners the market on weird, considering that her best friend, Dottie, has been dead since the 1950s. But when a fire demon attacks Paige in detention, she has

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