The St. Joe County Public Library has been selected as one of 100 libraries nationwide to take part in the Great Stories Club, a reading and discussion program for underserved teens. This competitive grant is offered by the American Library Association (ALA) with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
SJCPL staff will work with local teens at the Thomas N. Frederick Juvenile Justice Center (JJC) to read and discuss stories that explore the concept of empathy.
The books — curated for the theme “Empathy: The Cost of Switching Sides” — will include “Flight” by Sherman Alexie; “All American Boys” by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely; and “March: Book Three” by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell. The titles were selected in consultation with humanities scholars and librarians to inspire teens — especially those facing difficult circumstances or challenges — to consider “big questions” about the world around them and their place in it, ultimately affecting how they view themselves as thinkers and creators.
Missy Maeyens, SJCPL youth services assistant manager, applied for the grant on behalf of the Library. She states that “The programming made possible by this grant will give the youth residing in detention at JJC the opportunity to see the benefits of reading. We’d like to inspire them to engage in thoughtful discussions with their peers about tough yet relatable topics, help them cope with the stress of their current situation, and understand their relationship to the community as well as the world around them. The overlying theme of “empathy” will lead them to a better understanding of themselves and people who might be different from them. I hope it will help them find better methods or approaches to solving problems.”
As part of the grant, SJCPL will receive 11 copies of each of the selected books, which will be gifted to the book club participants. SJCPL will also receive resources and training, including travel and accommodations for an orientation workshop in Chicago. The workshops will include dialogue facilitation training led by consultants to Everyday Democracy and program modeling led by national project scholars Maria Sachiko Cecire (Bard College) and Anna Mae Duane (University of Connecticut). The SJCPL’s Great Stories program is anticipated to begin at the JJC in January 2019.
Maeyens and Ethan Marosz, SJCPL community engagement outreach assistant, have been working with the JJC for over a year. The partnership began when SJCPL installed a small library of withdrawn library books at the Center. Maeyens and Marosz make quarterly visits to the Center to talk with the teens and conduct programming.
According to Marosz, “The Library’s presence at the Center has really given kids something else to do and focus on. Many kids have told us ‘I had never read an entire book before I was in here,’, which has been a really powerful thing to hear. Many kids have expressed interest in the Library, recommended titles they want us to bring in, and excitedly shown us what they are currently reading.”
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