Reading is one of the most useful human skills, which makes it possible to acquire and create knowledge; the reading process is easy because it is quickly mastered by almost every child, and difficult because it involves increased work of consciousness, intelligence, soul, if we talk about reading as a form of spiritual activity. We can say that the whole modern education system and a significant part of national and world cultures are built on reading. However, recent trends show that the need for reading books, especially among young people, is gradually decreasing throughout the world, giving way to either alternative visual sources of information, or turning into a scanning or skimming process. Teenagers prefer reading for information or reading for entertainment [Bulanov, n.d.]. Both options contribute little to the active development of intelligence and personality.
This problem causes natural concern about consequences for humanity as a result of the loss of general literacy and interest in the conscious creative reading process. During discussions on this topic, some consider parents or school teachers guilty since they have not accustomed children to this vital skill from an early age, others hope that the development of technology in the future will offer some alternative cognitive processes. Still others prefer to look for ways to attract and engage young people with books and literature here and now, inventing various strategies and techniques for this, combining efforts of libraries, schools, parents and all interested people who are not indifferent to the fate of the Z-generation. Unfortunately, many countries around the world, including developed ones, have faced problems such as closures or downsizing of libraries, lack of staff and resources, insufficient funding, which means that the general literacy rate is falling, and adolescents have increasingly limited access to book resources, knowledge and services that they need to support their academic, emotional and social development [Tsoy, 2017].
With the increasing use of gadgets by teenagers (smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc.), public and school libraries should apparently change the principles of their work, taking into account the influence of technology, and create spaces and services that would be attractive, useful and offer all types of resources. It is also important to realize the fact that literacy of the young generation now includes not only reading and writing, but also action and participation in the surrounding world [Braun et al., 2014]. For instance, the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), launched the annual Teen Read Week. This initiative, which aims to encourage teenagers to be regular readers and users of the library, began in 1998 and is held annually in October. The Teen Read Week encourages teens to use reading in all its forms – books, magazines, e-books, audio books, and more. This is not only about free services and resources offered by the library, but also about creative, educational events under the guidance of professional mentors [Zalusky, 2018].
YALSA sees its mission in supporting library staff in solving the problems that adolescents face through introducing them to education, research, and creativity based on library resources [YALSA, n.d.].[u1] Every year the association offers a theme for implementing creative plans of libraries across the country. For example, in 2014, it was the slogan “Make dreams come true”, and the theme for 2018 was “It’s Written in the Stars: READ”. Exchange of opinions, ideas, thoughts, and suggestions between librarians, volunteers, and school teachers takes place on the YALSA website. The basic work principle of professionals is mutual learning – adolescents learn from experts, experts learn from adolescents. The habit of asking teenagers for their opinions makes them understand that the library is their own and exists to meet their needs. Trust and a sense of community make it possible to understand mood and interests of teenagers, better educate them and encourage their love of reading and library. Even an elementary urge to talk about books forms the skills of generalization, analysis, and search for the main meaning [YALSA, 2014].
So, during the Teen Read Week at the Findlay High School in Ohio, the library opens its doors wide and invites a large number of people to come to school. Among others, foreign students from a local university were invited to talk with high school students about different ways to learn languages and cultures in the school library. Students from Japan and Korea helped with software installation; students from India, Saudi Arabia and Nepal brought experience from their diverse cultures, which is becoming especially important in a world where the problems of mutual hatred and disagreement are flooding the media and news feeds. This means that adolescents must make an effort to realize and feel empathy and compassion for the people with whom we share the earth, library workers say [YALSA, 2016]. The Blind Date with a Book is very popular among teenagers: a librarian offers a young reader a book neatly wrapped in paper, without any indication of its contents. The goal is to offer something unusual to his/her addictions, from those genres that he/she usually does not read. There is a possibility that he/she will return the book the very next day, but more often there is a happy discovery of a new author and genre.
It is during this week that the Dollar General Literacy Foundation awards 10 libraries with a grant of $1,000 to help them finance youth literacy events that will help support innovative reading or literacy programs for adolescents [ALA, 2019]. For example, the Montville Township Public Library used the grant to make a series of four artificial language programs in science fiction and fantasy. The White Oak Public Library received a grant to create a collection of board games that focused on literacy skills. The library has prepared this new collection also for English as a second language lessons. It was very important for the organizers that teenagers and their families came to the presentation of board games together [YALSA, 2018]. Even after the end of the Teen Read Week, events do not end there. School teachers help students organize a contest of their own poems / rap, which somehow respond to the text of books they read – continuation of the story, personal reflection, another point of view, etc. The poem / rap with the highest rating is recorded on video and posted online, in order to be seen and heard not only by students, but also by parents, teachers and community members, as well as people living outside the district. In this way teenagers share their voices with the world outside their usual environment.
As part of the Teen Read Week, the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library invites teens, parents, and residents to take part in a number of special events, including the creation of a book trailer, a short video in a free-form narrative about a book; students and staff vote to determine the best trailer and award a winner. Library experts also compiled a set of useful tips that you can use not only during the week, but all your life:
– Take time every day to read with your family;
– Share your favorite book with family and friends;
– Go online to find out about new books or authors, or use the free YALSA app for teens;
– Organize a book discussion group;
– Create a home library (thrift stores and sales offer an inexpensive way to do this);
– Listen to audio books while traveling;
– Create a cozy reading corner somewhere in your home;
– Use your meal time to talk about the books you read [Ainsworth Public library, 2016].
In some libraries, the Teen Read Week also includes the Amnesty Week for Teenagers, where anyone who has lost their library card can replace it for free and check expired books without paying fines. Many libraries allow you to bring a book with you and read it, enjoying free pizza, or watch a new movie, or learn important information about eating and healthy habits from the Mad Scientists of Halloween show [Findlay-Hancock County Public Library, 2018].
Librarians seek and partner with various public organizations and individuals, from a restaurant chef to city council members. Today, millions of teenagers around the world face growing social problems and barriers that they cannot overcome on their own, and libraries are such a structure that can help them create a better future, or at least try to do it.
Kazakhstani teenagers are in many ways similar to their foreign peers in terms of interests, problems, lifestyle, which means that children’s, youth and school libraries of Kazakhstan face the same range of concerns and are also in search of incentives and tools to attract young readers, despite limited financial resources and optimization processes, that is, the closure of small libraries, and underestimation by government agencies. The experience of foreign colleagues can, perhaps, be partially borrowed, but, given Kazakhstan’s specifics, namely, a large number of educated people, representatives of the creative intelligentsia, writers and poets, it would be effective if each of them infected their children with a “reading virus”, brought them to the library and helped them discover the immense wealth of book culture.
Ainsworth Public library (2016). Ainsworth Library to Celebrate Teen Read Week. Retrieved from https://libraries.ne.gov/ainsworth/2016/10/07/ainsworth-library-to-celebrate-teen-read-week/. Accessed on 22.09.2019.
ALA (2019). Apply for the 2019 YALSA/DGLF Digital Equipment Grant. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/news/member-news/2019/04/apply-2019-yalsadglf-digital-equipment-grant. Accessed on 22.09.2019.
Braun, Linda W., Hartman, Maureen L., Hughes-Hassell, Sandra, and Kafi Kumasi with contributions from Beth Yoke (2014). The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action 2014. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/yaforum/sites/ala.org.yaforum/files/content/YALSA_nationalforum_Final_web_0.pdf . Accessed on 19.09.2019.
Bulanov, M. (n.d.). Children’s and teenage reading. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu. Accessed on 16.09.2019.
Findlay-Hancock County Public Library (2018). Teen Read Week. Retrieved from https://www.findlaylibrary.org/content/teen-read-week. Accessed on 22.09.2019.
Tsoy, E. (2017). Why are libraries not fashionable? Retrieved from https://vlast.kz/obsshestvo/22763-pocemu-biblioteki-eto-ne-modno.html. Accessed on 16.09.2019.
YALSA (n.d.). About YALSA. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/yalsa/aboutyalsa. Accessed on 15.09.2019.
YALSA (2014). Learning from Teens: Thoughts for a Teen Read Week. Retrieved from http://yalsa.ala.org/blog/tag/teen-read-week/. Accessed on 22.09.2019.
YALSA (2016). Teen Read Week: A Time to Come Together. Retrieved from http://yalsa.ala.org/blog/?s=Findlay+High+in+Findlay. Accessed on 15.09.2019.
YALSA (2018). Teen Read Week at Montville Township Public Library. Retrieved from http://yalsa.ala.org/blog/?s=Montville+Township+. Accessed on 15.09.2019.
Zalusky, S. (2018). Teen Read Week 2018: Reading Can Be Out of This World. Retrieved from
http://www.ilovelibraries.org/article/teen-read-week-2018-reading-can-be-out-world. Accessed on 15.09.2019.
Note: The views expressed in this blog are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the Institute’s editorial policy.
Nadirova Gulnar Ermuratovna graduated from the Oriental Faculty of Leningrad State University, in 1990 she defended her thesis on the Algerian literature at the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies, in 2006 doctoral thesis - on modern Tunisian literature at the Tashkent Institute of Oriental Studies, Professor.