III. Young Adult Reading Clubs
Young adults seek places in the community where they are welcome and may express themselves. It is developmentally appropriate for them to begin establishing independence. Librarians who host young adult programs and reading clubs demonstrate that the library has services that meet their needs and is a place where they belong.
Teens participate in libraries in many ways. They volunteer and serve on teen advisory boards, use educational computer programs, games, and online databases, assist younger children to use them, participate in scavenger hunts, attend library programs, read books and magazines of all genres, read to younger children, write reviews of books they read, check out and watch videos, and recommend web sites and books.
A simple way to organize a young adult reading club is to rewards teens for all of the ways in which they participate in the library. The “reading log” could describe the various ways they participate. As an example, here is a description of the reading club sponsored by the Fort Bend County Libraries.
The young adult reading log is on a letter-sized page printed front and back. One side is a grid with 35 squares.The other side has 20 numbered lines. One of the following activities is listed in each square.
- Attend any library program
- Spend one hour reading anything
- Spend one hour reading any of the following types of books: fantasy a sports, novel, an historical fiction novel, a romance novel, a mystery, a science fiction, a biography, non-fiction, poetry, fairy tales, a Lone Star book, a realistic fiction book, or an award winner
- Read an entire magazine
- Recommend five homework web sites to the librarian
- Complete a library scavenger hunt
- Read to a small child for one hour
- Attend a YA program
- Play an educational computer game
- Read a newspaper
- Watch a movie based on a book
- Complete an Internet treasure hunt
- Write a review of a good book you’ve read
- Listen to a book on tape for one hour
Teens participate by writing the titles read or activities performed on the lines on the back of the reading log. When they give to log to the librarian, they receive rewards for every 5 activities, up to 20.
Theme: No Limits – READ!
This section outlines a reading club designed uniquely for young adults.
No Limits – READ! Theme and Goals
The YA reading club theme, No Limits – READ! encompasses the subthemes of travel, careers, adventure, fantasy, and imagination. The theme provides young adults a positive direction for exploring themselves and their world while appealing to their propensity to push society’s limits. It suggests that the library offers chances to go beyond normal, everyday life to explore the world without limits. The club will be an opportunity for preteens and teens to read new books, to look to the future, to set far-reaching goals, and to use their active imaginations.
A YA Reading Club may be organized in a variety of formats. Most successful reading clubs are carefully customized to fit the specific needs, population, and resources of each individual library. A “sign-up” party or other special event may be held as an official kick-off for the club. Teens who are unable to attend the opening event may join throughout the summer.
Participation in the reading club may offer options such as reading a certain number of books, reading for certain amounts of time, and/or simply reading throughout the summer without goals. These and other options are described below. Examples of reading logs are provided.
Reading by the Number of Books: The easiest structure for reading clubs is to have readers list the titles of the books they read. This may increase summer circulation statistics and help program coordinators determine the types of books that are most popular among young adults. A goal for the number of books for the teens to read during the summer may be decided in advance (five is a very reasonable number) or young adults may set their own goals. This will allow participants to decide what will be a challenge for them. For one teen, five books may be quite a feat; for another, fifty books would be little work at all. A sample reading log that will enable them to record the titles of the items they read is included at the end of this chapter.
Reading by Genre: A more complicated option is for participants to read by genre. Teens may be asked to read ten books that include each of the following: a mystery, a fantasy, an historical fiction, a modern fiction, a biography, a short story or collection of short stories, an article in a magazine or newspaper, a classic adult or YA book, a non-fiction book, and an adult book, either fiction or non-fiction. The reading log will list the genres and teens will write the titles they read in each category. A sample reading log is included at the end of this section of the manual. The genre approach may help readers discover new authors and explore a variety of sections of the library. The librarian may be flexible and let the participants decide into which genre a book falls. This last idea is probably best utilized as an option for additional fun rather than as a requirement for all participants.
Reading by the Amount of Time: Reading for a certain amount of time may be a more fair assessment of the “work” completed by the reading club participants. This method encourages equity between teens who read more slowly and more quickly. It also allows teens to read in additional formats, such as magazines, newspapers, and comics. Librarians may opt to accept time spent listening to audiobooks as well. For example, completion of the club could require an average of 15 minutes of reading per day. While clubs should not insist that teens read daily, averaging the amount of time read throughout the entire summer into daily increments may encourage young adults to form habits of reading often. (A sample time reading log is included at the end of this section of the manual.)
All You Can Read: Reading by the Pound: In this option, club participants read as much as they can as often as they can. There are no rules stating how much they must read and there are no requirements for the type of materials read.
Just Reading: Young adult reading clubs do not have to be competition or completion oriented. An alternative would be to set a goal for the entire club membership, allowing members to work together rather than individually. Each participant may contribute as much or as little as they are able to the group. As stated earlier, young adults are often attracted to the social aspects of the reading club. This option encourages them to be active participants in the community of readers that the library is striving to assemble. In this way, the reading club acts as a social club in which participants gather either formally or informally to be a part of a larger group. Members can still agree to log the books that they read and/or the time that they read. This will add to circulation statistics and will allow individual members to contribute to the club as a whole.
Traditionally, reading clubs offer prizes or incentives to participants. Interestingly, scientific research finds no clear causal relationships between incentives and reading improvement.5 In fact, research indicates that providing prizes for behavior often devalues the very activity that it is supposed to promote. In accordance with this research, if incentives are to used, they should be incidental and should not overshadow the pleasure of reading and visiting the library. Ideally, whether or not prizes or incentives are offered, young adults will be motivated to join reading clubs to use reading, to become a part of the community of readers, and to enjoy the library. If prizes or incentives are offered, they must be appropriate for the age group and attainable by all participants. For an interesting debate on the use of rewards, see the article “Should We Pay Kids to Learn” by Richard Sax and Alphie Kohn in the March-April, 1996 issue of Learning.6
As an alternative to offering individual prizes for participation, the library may provide group rather than individual incentives. In this option, reading goals are set for the entire club membership. The incentives may be events in which all members will participate, and they may also double as publicity stunts or fundraisers. Here are some examples:
If the club members read for at least 1000 hours, the Library Director will sleep on the roof.
Area businesses will pledge a certain amount of money for each book that club members read and the money will be used to purchase additional young adult materials.
“Hold the Applause! Do Accelerated Reader ™ and Electronic Bookshelf ™ Send the Right Message?” by Betty Carter. School Library Journal 42.
Promoting the Young Adult Reading Club and Programs
Aggressive promotion is essential both before the club begins and throughout the program. YA reading clubs will be most successful if they are publicized early, both in the library and the community. Posters and flyers displayed in places young adults frequent such as movie theaters, arcades, malls, etc. will be most successful. Multi-faceted publicity campaigns that reach out to the target audience and include a variety of strategies to catch and retain the attention of young adults who already visit the library as well as those who rarely or never visit the library will be most effective. Posters, flyers, bulletin boards, press releases, public service announcements, booktalks and web pages are only a few strategies that may be incorporated into the overall campaign. Librarians may use techniques that have worked in the past along with new ideas. Young adults may be asked to provide suggestions for effective promotional strategies. Many examples for promotional ideas are included below. Visit the Teen Read Week web site at http://www.ala.org/ala/yalsa/teenreading/teenreading.htm for additional promotional ideas.
Posters, Flyers, Brochures, and Bookmarks
Eye-catching posters, flyers, brochures, and bookmarks will attract the attention of potential YA reading club participants. Posters and flyers publicizing the reading club and/or programs for young adults may be placed in the young adult department or close to the young adult collection. (Examples of flyers and bookmarks are included here.) Another excellent location for promotion is in high-traffic areas inside the library such as the circulation desk, the reference desk, and other information areas. They may also be placed them in school libraries, movie theaters, arcades, bookstores, and other businesses frequented by young adults. Flyers, brochures and bookmarks may also be distributed during community functions and sent to school classes, youth organizations, and clubs. It is a good idea to mail letters of introduction prior to distributing or posting promotional items in institutions other than the library.
Upstart, a division of Highsmith, produces signs and bags of “WARNING” that libraries contain “Unusual, hilarious, fascinating, sinister, and even frightening things. Read at your own risk.” These items tie in with theme, No Limits - READ!. Upstart’s phone number is 1-800-448-4887.
Bulletin Boards and Displays
Traditional bulletin boards and display cases in libraries may be designed to attract potential and current club members. Change them often! Smaller displays on tabletops, book carts, and in the actual shelves in and around the young adult collection may be just as effective, as they are often more unusual and eye-catching. Bulletin boards and displays may also be featured in area businesses, at area schools, in malls, and at meeting places for young adult clubs.
Sample Bulletin Boards and Displays
Bulletin Board: No Limits – READ!
LOCATION: In library, at area businesses, at schools, etc.
DESCRIPTION: Decorate the bulletin board with posters, bookmarks, reading logs, calendars of events, etc. to publicize the reading club and related activities. Surround them with colorful road signs.
Bulletin Board: Treasure Trove at the Library
LOCATION: In the library.
DESCRIPTION: Draw a relatively simple map of the library depicting points of interest. It may look more like a treasure map than a floor plan. Place multi-colored X’s in areas of specific interest to young adults. Make a legend with exciting, even campy names to corresponding places in the library. Examples of areas of interest in the library and corresponding names might be: water fountain - fount of blessing; reference desk - temple of knowledge; YA collection - treasure trove; computers or card catalogs - oracles of cryptic wisdom; etc.
Bulletin Board and/or Display: Adventures In …
LOCATION: Bulletin Board in or around the young adult collection. A display case with related articles and books may be added or substituted.
DESCRIPTION: Feature a weekly theme such as “Adventures in…” spelunking, babysitting, space, Europe, etc. Add pictures, posters, bookmarks, books, and/or objects related to the theme each week.
Book Display: Caution! Banned!
LOCATION: In the young adult collection on a table top, in a display case, in a shelving unit or on a book cart.
DESCRIPTION: Collect and organize banned books and/or bookmarks listing banned books of interest to young adults. Add a copy of the First Amendment and “caution” or “stop” signs.
Library staff can excite teens about reading and visiting the library by making public appearances and offering enticing descriptions of library resources and programs. Schools visits, appearances on local television news or community events shows, and interviews on local radio stations are just a few opportunities. Such direct or indirect contact will let young adults know that there is a person at the library who is interested in talking to them and who will welcome them with a smile.
Tips for Public Appearances
- Be brief.
- Be enthusiastic.
- Be knowledgeable. Be prepared for questions.
- Take handouts and other visual aids.
- Try to determine environmental conditions such as the arrangement of the room and available technologies before the presentation.
- Be flexible enough to make last minute changes in your presentation. Shorten or lengthen it. Be prepared to present it to twice as many people as anticipated.
- Be yourself. Don’t try to be “cool” or act like a young adult.
Public appearances may include brief, exciting explanations of the YA Reading Club and related programs, booktalks on YA materials, and/or related information about reading and its importance. Booktalks are particularly effective tools to communicate to young adults that the library has books that they will enjoy and that someone at the library actually reads what they do.
Tips for Booktalking
- Booktalk materials that you like.
- Booktalk only materials that you have read or have viewed.
- Prepare a list of titles that you will booktalk as a handout.
- Design the booktalks so that they are relevant to your audience. Young adults want to “find” themselves in books.
- Be brief. Keep the momentum going by moving rapidly from one title to the next.
- Booktalk a variety of fiction and non-fiction titles.
- Tell only enough about a specific title to entice interest. Don’t tell the whole story or oversell the book.
- Vary your presentations. Read a quote from one book, tell about a particular character from another, introduce the plot of a third, etc.
- Display print copies of the book with each booktalk.
- Use broad themes for your booktalks. (i.e. adventure, American history, etc.)
- Keep it simple. Do not overshadow the books with too many props. The books should be the focus rather than the presenter or the performance.
Booktalk - Quick and Simple by Nancy Keane
- Booktalk! by Joni Richards Bodart.
- Tales of Love and Terror: Booktalking the Classics, Old and New by Hazel Rockman.
Press Releases and Public Service Announcements
Library staff may begin a publicity campaign by compiling a list of potential recipients for press releases and/or public service announcements. The list should include area television stations, radio stations, newspapers, newsletters, agencies that provide calendars of events, and even schools that have newspapers or daily announcements. Call or write these institutions to determine a contact person for library or youth related information, as well as for the correct phone and fax number and mailing address of each institution (often the required fax or phone number is not readily available to the public). Publicity packets should include a reading club poster, the business card of the young adult program coordinator, and basic information about the programs. Booklists of new or interesting books may be sent to newspapers and television stations. Press releases and public service announcements should be sent repeatedly both before and throughout the duration of the club.
Sample Press Releases and Public Service Announcements
Live on the Edge at the (your library’s name)!
Young adults ages ____ to ____ are invited to push the limits at the Library! Join the No Limits – READ! Young Adult Summer Reading Club from (beginning date) to (ending date.) Sign up at the (your library’s name) at (address) between (beginning sign-up date) to (ending sign-up date.) Explore new ideas by reading all summer long! Visit the Library or call (phone number) for more information.
Caution! Read at Your Own Risk at the (your library’s name)!
Teens, join the No Limits – READ!Young Adult Summer Reading Club at the Library! Sign up at (your library’s name) at (address) from (beginning sign-up date) to (ending sign-up date) to read, read, READ throughout the summer! Check out the radical programs each (weekly program date) at (weekly program time.) But be warned. This Library contains unusual, hilarious, fascinating, sinister, and even frightening things. Visit the Library or call (phone number) for more information.
No Limits – READ! Young Adult Summer Reading Club and Teen Activities at the (library’s name)
Calling all teens! The (your library’s name) invites you to join the Young Adult Summer Reading Club. Just sign up at the Library at (address) during (the signup time period.) Read as much as you want — whatever you want! Enjoy hot books, a cool atmosphere, and a variety of programs including crafts, special performers, refreshments, and more! Pick up a program calendar at the Library or call (phone number) for information!
Young Adult Web Pages
A well-designed library web site provides information about the library, its services and holdings, a calendar of events featuring programs for all ages, and web pages designed to appeal to specific audiences, including young adults. YA reading clubs and programs may be effectively publicized and promoted on the library’s web site. An excellent article with information on YA web pages is “A Cyber-Room of Their Own: How Libraries Use Web Pages to Attract Young Adults” by Patrick Jones.”7 Outstanding examples of library web pages for young adults are listed below.
Boulder Public Library Young Adult Advisory Board
Internet Public Library Teen Division
King County Library System Teen Zone
Youth (Wired) - San Antonio Public Library System
The library may partner with area businesses, schools, service organizations and clubs to provide the most comprehensive coverage for its target population. Below is a sample letter to send to schools to encourage cooperation in promoting student involvement in the reading club.
Sample Letter to Educator
(Use library letterhead)
(Name of Principal, Superintendent, or School Librarian)
Dear (Principal, Superintendent, etc.):
The (your library’s name) will offer the No Limits – READ!Young Adult Reading Club and related activities to encourage young adults to visit the public library and read throughout the summer. The theme suggests that the library offers opportunities to travel beyond normal, everyday life – to explore the world without limits. The club is designed to be an impetus for preteens and teens to read new books, to look to the future, to set far-reaching goals and to use their active imaginations.
We hope that all students at (name of educational institution) will be able to participate in part or all of our summer programming and that we will be able to work with your school to encourage them to visit the library and enroll.
I would like to ask (Name of educational institution) to assist us in publicizing the Library’s summer programs in some or all of the following ways:
- Allow a library representative to speak briefly to students in your school. We will provide a brief presentation in a large auditorium, in the school library, in individual classrooms, or over your PA system.
- Distribute flyers to the students in your classrooms, library, or office (a copy of the proposed flyer is attached).
- Display posters in your library, cafeteria, office and/or halls.
- Print related articles in your school newspaper.
- Any other publicity strategy that will work best for your school.
A (your library’s name) representative will be contacting you about promotional possibilities. If you have any questions, please feel free to call (name of Library representative) at (phone number).
Thank you for considering our request. We look forward to hearing from you.
(Name of Library representative)
(Title of Library representative)
No Limits – READ!
Bibliography of Adventures for Young Adults
(Annotations are included in the bibliography.)
- Adventures To Imagine: Thrilling Escapes in North America by Peter Guttman.
- Blood and Chocolate by Annette Klaus.
- Blue Sword by Robin McKinley.
- Bound for the North Star: True Stories of Fugitive Slaves by Dennis Brindell Fradin.
- Cast Two Shadows: The American Revolution In the South by Ann Rinaldi.
- Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman.
- The Dark and Deadly Pool by Joan Lowery Nixon.
- Don’t Look Behind You by Lois Duncan.
- Edge of the Sword by Rebecca Tingle.
- The Extreme Searcher’s Guide to Web Search Engines: A Handbook for the Serious Searcher by Randolph Hock and Paula Berinstein.
- Flight #116 Is Down by Caroline Cooney.
- The Fortune-Telling Book: Reading Crystal Balls,Tea Leaves, Playing Cards, and Everyday Omens of Love and Luck by Gillian Kemp.
- Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
- The Immortal (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) by Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder.
- Loch by Paul Zindel.
- Look For Me By Moonlight by Mary Downing Hahn.
- Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien.
- Magic Kingdom For Sale – SOLD! by Terry Brooks.
- The Pirate’s Son by Geraldine McCaughrean.
- Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer.
- Shades of Simon Gray by Joyce McDonald.
- Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: the True Story of the Endurance Expedition by Jennifer Armstrong.
- The Weirdo by Theodore Taylor.
- What Have You Lost? edited by Naomi Shihab Nye and Liz Rosenberg.
- The Wreckers by Iain Lawrence.
- You Hear Me? Poems and Writings by Teenage Boys edited by Betsy Franco.
5 McQuillan, Jeff.
“The Effects of Incentives on Reading.” Reading Research and Instruction 36 (Winter 1997): 111-25.
6 Sax, Richard, and Alphie Kohn.
“Should We Pay Kids to Learn?” Learning 24 (March-April 1996): 6-7.
7 Jones, Patrick.
“A Cyber-Room of Their Own: How Libraries Use Web Pages to Attract Young Adults.” School Library Journal 43 (November 1997): 34-7.