Libraries are a Teen Oasis

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By Megan Fink

The great comic actor Groucho Marx once said, “Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.” While Groucho definitely predates Will Ferrell, this sort of humor might appeal to teen readers during the tenth annual Teen Read Week™, celebrated this year October 14–20.

Teen Read Week, an annual teen literacy initiative administered by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), is an opportunity to showcase the library and involve teens in the planning of the events. The theme for 2007 is “LOL @ your library®,” which encourages teens to read something light or humorous, just for the fun of it. Whether having a Guitar Hero tournament, like the Austin (Texas) Public Library or hosting an author visit with Particia McCormick at the Columbus (Ohio) Metropolitan Library, teens should consider the library their destination for hilarity during Teen Read Week in October.

According to Cory Grimminck, lead librarian for teen programs and services at the Kalamazoo (Mich.) Public Library, “On Teen Read Week, every year our Teen Activity Board has a read-a-thon from 9:30– 5:00 on the Saturday of Teen Read Week. The kids collect pledges of canned goods for every, with all the proceeds going to the local Loaves and Fishes food pantry.” Grimminck also said they planned an author visit to coincide with the read-a-thon. “This year it’s Ned Vizzini. The author can see the kids reading, provide words of encouragement, and act as an added incentive for the kids.”teens reading at a Teen Read Week event

Non-library groups are getting in on the fun, too. Readergirlz, one of the foremost online book communities for teen girls, is celebrating Teen Read Week all month long with its “31 Flavorite Authors for Teens,” a daily online chat with a different author each day of the week. Writers include:  Holly Black, Ann Brashares, Chris Crutcher, John Green, Tiffany Trent, and ending with Stephenie Meyer, just to list a few. Authors will chat nightly at 5 p.m. Pacific and 8 p.m. Eastern. To learn more, visit www.readergirlz.com.

While Groucho and the Marx brothers’ movies are bound to provoke a smile if you show them at your TRW event, many of today’s authors for teens were more than happy to share what made them laugh for the Teen Read Week Web site (www.ala.org/teenread).

Dave Barry, author of Peter and the Starcatchers and many other nonfiction books, said, “What makes me laugh most is Congress. Dogs can also be very funny, but I have to give the edge to Congress.” According to Lisi Harrison, author of The Clique series, seeing “a woman strutting out of the bathroom with toilet paper stuck to her heel gets me every time.”

Cecily von Ziegesar, author of the Gossip Girl series, finds personal stories or “freudian slips” hilarious. “One night I was reading to my four-year-old daughter a rather boring picture book about Paul Revere. When I came upon the word 'timber' I accidentally said 'tampon' instead. I became immediately hysterical, laughing so hard tears were running down my cheeks,” von Ziegesar said. “Of course my daughter thought I was insane and insisted that I continue reading, even though I had the giggles. Soon she had the giggles too and our giggles morphed into uncontrollable howls of laughter. It reminded me of my seventh grade biology class when I raised my hand to answer a question and I said 'orgasm' instead of organism. I turned purple and had to hide under my desk because my teacher was a man with a mustache and I could not look at him without bursting into hysterical laughter. By the end of class we were all under our desks.”

Meg Cabot, author of The Princess Diaries fame, said, “Reading (and writing about) characters’ excruciating embarrassing social gaffes always make me laugh! Which is awful, since goodness knows I've committed enough of them!”

Chris Crutcher, author of Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes and many other novels says, “I laugh when I finally get a book finished. I laugh when my publisher calls near a deadline and I DON'T have a book finished. I laugh when certain politicians say they have in mind the best interests of those who carry the biggest hardships, then create policy to make their lives harder. I laugh any time I see a little kid giggling. I laugh any time I see a big kid giggling. I laugh at any good joke; and I laugh at a lot of bad jokes. I laugh at puns. Shoot, I laugh at almost anything.”

Keep in mind what Mr. Marx also said about reading: “I must say I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a good book.”

Megan P. Fink is a Middle School Librarian at Charlotte Country Day School in North Carolina.  She began her career in children’s book publishing, but fell in love with the library while working for the New York Public Library. She is the Chair of the Young Adult Library Services Association’s Teen Read Week Committee.

All photos in this article are of the after-hours, teens-only Teen Read Week Grand Finale Party at ImaginOn, the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County's youth library, on Sunday, October 22. The fun included a teen DJ, a rock climbing wall, a bungee run, gladiator jousting, karaoke, x-box games, DDR, Guitar Hero, and of course tons of free food and hundred book prize packs! It was awe-inspiring to more than 1,800 teens lined up around the block waiting to enter the public library on a Sunday night!

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