For this program, we wanted to have the kids take control of the program and ultimately get out of it what they want. We know that entering middle or high school can be challenging and that there are a lot of questions. We also know that having a supportive community can make that transition easier, and the Lincolnwood Public Library strives to create that community and offer support.
Execution: We started the program with an icebreaker that got kids talking to each other as well as learning a little bit more about what they experienced. Although kids were hesitant, it did allow them to start talking.
We then had kids talk about and answer previously submitted questions (we had a place to submit for several weeks in the library that were then vetted by the staff). Our t(w)een volunteers helped to guide the discussion, and because many of them were older, could offer more experience. Since the teens were all still in school, they gave a modern perspective as opposed to our staff. Staff were there just to guide the conversation and transition from one question to another.
Results: Kids were able to express themselves in most all of the questions. Kids going into Middle or High School were able to learn a lot of practical advice and stories from older kids about the school experience, as well as some things to look out for since most kids were in the same school system.
Most importantly, kids were able to have a community of others to provide support in a safe space. That’s the ideal support that the library can offer.
Options for Next Time: Time is always a limiting factor. It would be great for kids to ask their own questions in addition to ones that were submitted. It would also be great if the entire program could be run by the teens themselves. This can easily be adapted in the future to a more general dealing with life program.
Stay tuned and enjoy the additional reading options for more on this topic!
Additional Resources on Back to School and Dealing with Difficult Topics in School: