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Teen Reading Week promotes youth literacy

By Trina Trice

"Teen Read Week" is the creation of the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association.

The week kicked off in Clayton County with "Read-A-Latte Caf?" at the Forest Park branch Monday night. Storyteller Ray Greene, a member of the Southeastern Order of Storytellers, read "spooky" stories to a small group of teenagers.

"It was the first time we had 'Read-A-Latte Caf?'," said Donna Thoman, Forest Park branch manager. "We're trying to expand our programming. We try to make it into a caf? with tablecloths...and refreshments.

"It takes a bit to get things like this off the ground, so it's being sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Forest Park. We hope to be doing things with art, music...drama."

This year's theme is "Get Graphic @ Your Library," a reference to graphic novels, such as "Maus: A Survivor's Tale" by Art Spiegelman, that are popular with young adult readers, according to Janice Arcuria, assistant director of Youth Services for the Clayton County Library system.

The library system isn't able to participate as fully in "Teen Read Week" as it would like to due primarily to budget concerns, Arcuria said.

"Graphic books are a japanimation-style of novels, which are an extension of comic books," Arcuria said. "Given this year's budget resources, we haven't begun ordering graphic novels. When we do start to add them, we want to get more than a couple. Once the kids got started, they'll want to have more."

North Clayton Middle School eighth graders Shadanza Hines and Starla Preer agree that they would read more if they had access to more graphic novels.

"It makes the story more interesting," Preer said. "Some children need pictures to help them visualize the story which you need, unless it's a really good book."

Encouraging middle school-aged children to read is a challenge, said Lorraine Lambert, literacy coach at North Clayton Middle School.

"We haven't developed a community of learners," Lambert said. "In elementary school, teachers read to (students) more. We want to continue that tradition."

Weekly campaigns such as "Teen Read Week" and "National Reading Week" in September are positive, Lambert said, but more ongoing efforts have the potential to be more effective, such as the "25 Book Campaign" something North Clayton Middle School has promoted since school began in August.

Eighth grader Jene? Joseph doesn't read as much as she did when she was younger.

"I used to like reading," Joseph said. "As I get older I have more to do. When I do read it's because I'm bored."

To supply students with enough books that will interest them, the school encourages them to check out books in the media center as well as becoming card holders with the county's library system, Lambert said.

Preer, a fan of the Harry Potter series, can't normally find books she likes in most of the libraries she's visited, she said.

"It's hard for me to find a good book," Preer said. "They need more books. All the books they have here are boring. We want books about our life. They've got books old people would like."

Despite efforts to get more teens in the library, though, Arcuria admits that promotional events planned for "Teen Read Week" in the past haven't been well attended.

The Headquarters branch is hosting a "Teen Poetry Workshop" at 7 p.m. Thursday. Open to young adults between the ages of 13 and 18. The workshop offers an introduction to writing poetry by Robin Kemp, who quit a job a news writing job at the Cable News Network to devote all her time to writing and teaching poetry.

"There are only a limited number of seats available, but if there is enough interest I have told the library that I will be happy to conduct an ongoing workshop series," Kemp said.