ALA Annual 2023

Engaging Teens in Early Learning at #alaac23

What do teens and toddlers have in common? Quite a bit! I attended a session from the Brooklyn Public Library outlining their StoryTeen program. This paid internship program gives teens the opportunity to explore early learning concepts and careers.

How does it work?

Each participating teen completes 80 hours of hands-on work experience with the library. During this time, they support storytime and other early learning programs, from setup to opportunities to host. At the end of their internship, each teen also develops a creative project.

Prior to starting their internship, each teen also receives approximately 20 hours of training in child development, literacy, library skills, and career skills. These trainings were adapted for teens from existing trainings and workshops offered to new library staff and caregivers. Throughout the program, teens are mentored by librarians. The librarians used a scaffolded approach, starting with observations and building to the opportunity to present on their own.

The program follows the school year, with applications beginning in fall and placement in libraries in January. From that point, teens work through the process of observing and participating in programming, while simultaneously working on their creative projects. These projects can be anything from a digital book and video to a guide to creating library displays.

How can I do it?

Want do something similar at your library? The presenters broke down the steps you should follow, whether you’re planning for one intern or ten.

  1. Develop an application process. Most likely, you’ll want to include both an application and interview.
  2. Create a schedule and expectations. Break it down for teens to know exactly what to expect during the internship. You’ll also want to schedule an orientation and tour.
  3. Determine expectations. Let teens know up front what they will be doing, as well as your expectations for their special project. Provide structure and focus to help teens take the program seriously. Ideally, your program will be driven by youth interests, and you’ll provide a menu of opportunities that they can choose from to get their hours.
  4. Determine what you can offer them. If you can offer a stipend, great! Even if you can’t, offering service hours for their work is important.

StoryTeen is a great opportunity for youth and adults to work together in partnership to learn more about early learning, career opportunities, and libraries. What opportunities can you create at your library?

Today’s guest contributor is Jaime Eastman (she/her/hers). Jaime is a senior Public Services Librarian and Family Place Coordinator at the Harrington Library, one of the Plano (Texas) Public Library locations. She’s currently serving as a member of the ALSC Board of Directors. This will be her second Annual Conference. She is looking forward to many things, including finalizing the strategic plan with the rest of the Board, seeing great educational sessions sponsored by ALSC, and connecting with members both in person and through the blog. Jaime is currently working on at least two ambitious cross stitch projects, dreaming of future travel plans, and reading far too many books at once. As a child, she wanted to grow up to be an author. Writing for the blog and publishing with Children and Libraries feel like a good start, and she regrets nothing about her adult decision to be a librarian doing storytimes who didn’t have to grow up too much.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

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