Monday, May 13, 2013

Teens, Pizza, and Books...Oh My!

So you want to start a teen book club. What's the best way to go about it? I see this question a lot on listervs and other various librarian sites. I was lucky enough to be able to start a teen book club last year and fortunately it's still going strong.

I noticed that at my library we have a very strong base of middle school aged teens that hang out in the library and regularly attend our programs. I decided to start by catering to this specific age group (grades 6 to 9) and offer a monthly book club.

The first thing I had to do was choose a book. I wanted a book that would appeal to both boys and girls, would encourage a great discussion, and wouldn't be too controversial right out of the gate (our community is on the conservative side). After talking with some of my coworkers, I came up with the perfect book: Unwind  by Neal Shusterman. It's fast-paced, science-fictiony without being off-putting to those who aren't complete fans of the genre, and it would spark some great talking points.

I belong to a consortium of libraries   so it's usually no problem to order in enough copies of a title for 20 teens. If you don't have access to something similar, another option is to see if you can apply for a grant or ask your Friends of the Library group for funds to purchase paperback copies for the teens. Then you can either let the teens keep the books or create a Book Club Sets section in your library.

I decided to hold the program on Saturdays from noon to 1:00 p.m. in the Teen Room and call it Pizza and Pages. As we all know, one of the tried and true methods for bringing teens to programs is to feed them. So I thought that I could hook some of them by offering pizza along with the book discussion. One of our local pizza places generously donates pizza every so often for the club. The other meetings, I will order it and pay for it out of my teen programming budget. I also provide beverages. The teens LOVE the pizza and I have a steady total of around 15 teens at each meeting.

I also wanted to have some sort of activity to go along with the book discussion. My brilliant coworker came up with an idea she saw on Pinterest and it evolved into what we currently do: book charms. They are super easy to make and are an absolute hit with the teens.

Here's how to make them:

  • Buy a pack of Shrinky Dink Inkjet Plastic. Make sure it's the kind that you can put in the printer. You can usually find it at your local craft store or online. The package looks like this: 

  • Open Microsoft Publisher (or another similar program) and copy and paste several images (I use Google Images) of your book cover. (You'll notice that I have 2 different titles on one sheet. This is to save paper so I plan a little ahead with my book choices.) The ideal size to shrink the covers to is 1.5" tall by 1" wide. The'll end up shrinking in the oven to the perfect charm size. You'll also want to lighten any images of any dark book covers (like Unwind) as the colors get darker in the oven as you bake them.

  • Print your document onto the plastic. Cut out each charm and punch a hole in the top of each one. I use just a normal sized hold punch and it works perfectly. 
  • Arrange your book covers on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. 
  • Bake these in the oven at 290 degrees for around 5 minutes. If you watch your Shrinky Dinks bake you'll notice that they will shrink and curl up, then uncurl. Once they flatten back out again, they're done.  This is how I bake them in our oven at work. There are instructions in the plastic package that explain the range of oven temperatures and time limits that you can use to bake your Shrinky Dinks.
  • Take the Shrinky Dinks out of the oven and if needed, press on them to flatten using more parchment paper. Caution: these are hot at first!
  • Let them cool down and you're done!
  • I also purchased a bag of 7mm silver jump rings from a craft store. You can buy these in bulk pretty cheaply. 
  • Because charms may be associated with girls, I gave the teens an option. They could either make a charm bracelet or a keychain. I purchased a roll of silver chain, lobster claspskeychains, and split rings. I also invested in a few sets of jewelry pliers knowing that we would use them each month.
So every month, I allot about 15 minutes at the end for the teens to add that month's charm to their bracelet/keychain. I have some members who are familiar with basic jewelry making, so they help the others while I pass out next month's book.
Here are some other titles we've read this past year:

  • Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jorden Sonnenblick
  • Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
  • Unwholly by Neal Shusterman
Do any of you run a teen book club? If so, leave any ideas/tips/success stories in the comments!

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