“The program I coordinated with local schools is called Story Talk,” said Kelly Cardenas, teen services librarian at the Pell City Public Library. “Story Talk is a literature project for youth in conjunction with our nation’s libraries, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.”
Cardenas said for each completed program, the library received $1,000.
“I conducted two eight-week courses, one at the 9th Grade Academy at Pell City High School and one at Ruben Yancey Alternative School in Ashville,” she said. “By participating, we received $2,000 for our children and teen departments.”
Cardenas said the main goal of Story Talk is to introduce literature in the form of short stories to new audiences who have either never been given the opportunity to really connect with a work of literature or for those who rarely read.
“There are many teens in our community who have a negative attitude towards reading,” she said. “They either say that reading is for smart people, or that it is uncool to walk around with your nose in a book. Many of the teens that I worked with wore their lack of interest in reading like a badge of honor. Some would even brag about never having been in a library and not having a library card.”
Cardenas said when asked, the teens would nonchalantly say, “I don’t read.”
“They didn’t say ‘I can’t’ or ‘I won’t,’ but ‘I don’t,’” she said. “I found this choice of words interesting, because it reflects that this is a conscious choice they are making, mostly because up until now they have never been introduced to literature they can really connect with on a personal level.”
Cardenas said the breakdown of each eight-week course is simple.
“I would choose a story from the ‘Story Talk’ selections based on what I thought would most appeal to the group,” she said. “I would go in and read the story to the group without interruption, and then begin the discussion with a series of questions.”
Cardenas said sometimes it would only take one or two questions to really “get the ball rolling.”
“Before they knew it, they were deep in discussion about the poetics or the theme of the story,” she said. “The catch phrase for the program is ‘Hear it, Read it, Talk about it,’ which really is the best way to describe it. It was very interesting to watch the students open up and relate their own life experiences to what they were reading.”
Cardenas said the library’s teen department was also awarded a $300 grant from the Margaret Alexander Edwards Trust for literature-based outreach programming in the community. The purpose of the MAE Trust is to award grants to librarians who “promote the free reading of teenagers.”
“We plan to use the money for both in-house and outreach programs,” she said. “We will use some of it for our summer reading programs and also for school programs this fall.”
Contact Elsie Hodnett at email@example.com.