31 Flavorite Authors For Teens: ReaderGirlz Teams with YALSA!

31_flavorites_poster.jpgShaping Youth last reported on “readergirlz” social media launch this spring when they kicked off their power-packed teen lit site as a mashup of ‘old media meets new media’ striving to keep reading relevant for teens in the 21st century.

Readergirlz divas Janet Lee Carey (Dragon’s Keep), Dia Calhoun (Avielle of Rhia) Lorie Ann Grover (On Pointe) and Justina Chen Headley (Nothing But the Truth {and a few white lies} have created the “readergirlz” site and social media hangout for teen girls to share their stories and engage in the media sphere, integrating a global book club for teen girls to engage in literature and then take it to the streets for social change! For the first time ever, they’ve teamed in a national partnership with Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) to promote YALSA’s annual event Teen Read Week (wiki here) held the third week in October. (Oct. 14-20 this year)

In the usual readergirlz flair for “gutsy girl” gusto, a week just didn’t cut it, so they’re serving up a full MONTH of teen engagement starting today called 31 Flavorite Authors for Teens to get kids excited about reading. “Sweet!”

Here’s the scoop: Every day of the month, you can live chat with the author themselves by tuning in HERE at 5pm PST, 8pm EST, U.S. to learn their backstory, motivations, personal premise and ask them about any of the touch points that interest you in each of the ‘flavorites.’ Choose a few or read ‘em all…it’s rare to have the opportunity to access the authors firsthand and add to your shared reader experience en masse.

We’ll be reporting on other Teen Read Week sponsored events and library happenings throughout the month, but wanted to snag the readergirlz and YALSA President Paula Brehm-Heeger to dish on what brought them together, how teens are integrating reading into their media mix for pleasure, and why the Teen Read Week wiki is so important as a fresh idea hub for blending creative, fun activities into events to celebrate reading.

I’ll definitely put readergirlz and Yalsa in touch with our own new local sister channel, Girls Are Champions, who happen to be holding a writing and drawing contest called “The Real Me” (deadline Oct. 18 during Teen Read Week!) to encourage girls’ authenticity.

GAC.tv Founder Lisa Izzi is featuring Gold medalist Brandi Chastain as one of the judges and sports inspirations when winners are announced on Nov. 30 at Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, CA. (I’ll be there for certain to interview Brandi and the winner!)

It’s all fabulous cross-pollination for some ‘queen bees’ that know how to create buzz, make a difference on the planet and use digital technology in positive new ways to elicit new thinking merged with action, like-minded energy, and brain trust to reach young adults on a global scale!

Without further ado, here’s Shaping Youth’s interview with the readergirlz on their “31 Flavorites” kick-off today, peppered with a few comments from Paula Brehm-Heeger, President of YALSA, their national partner org. Paula Brehm-Heeger will provide more on YALSA’s point of view on some of these questions as Teen Read Week edges closer. Enjoy!

Shaping Youth: Do you find media has shifted the landscape and the conversation in terms of kids’ reading books for pleasure?

RG/Janet Lee Carey: We’re seeing a wonderful renaissance for teen lit. Many of the best lit today is written for young adults! So teens seeking “pleasure reading” have amazing choices. More and more adults are recognizing this teen lit renaissance and secretly (or not so secretly) grab YA books to read.

The multiplication of all things media doesn’t have to detract from reading. They can provide even more ways for teens to find out about great books. We see readergirlz as one of those ways. Readergirlz doesn’t shy away from the media connections — connection can bring about community. We hope readergirlz will become increasingly more influential in bringing the best of literature to teens…

Shaping Youth: Do you feel there’s such a thing as choosing a “bad book” for pleasure reading? (e.g. reinforcing media cultural cues/gossip/mean girl stuff/anorexia/binge drinking, etc.)

Or is ANY reading “good” reading?

RG/Janet Lee Carey: Any book that gets a teen engaged in reading is a good thing. That said, the readergirlz founding divas, Justina Chen Headley, Lorie Ann Grover, Dia Calhoun, and Janet Lee Carey, made it our mission from day one to introduce teens to the wide variety of quality YA books being published today.

Many of the best books don’t get publicized adequately. Teens just need to know about these great reads so they can bring them home and pop open the pages. Once they engage in these entertaining, mind-expanding books, most teens will discover there is literary life beyond the bestseller list.

Shaping Youth: Are teens using social media like readergirlz, global book clubs, LibraryThing, Shelfari and the internet as true literary roundtables or more as chatrooms with teens sharing common interests?

RG/Dia Calhoun: The readergirlz stance is that any way to engage a teen into reading is a great thing. Take SOLD–a National Book Award finalist about a tough, tough topic–child sexual slavery. We have had MANY girls pick up the book simply because they had an opportunity to chat directly with Patricia McCormick.

We believe that chatting about the book and its impact, as well as chatting with the authors is a powerful way to expose teens to (and engage them with) truly great literature. During our Live Chats, the book is often discussed on a literary level. The authors share backstory about how and why their books were written, explain why a writing form was chosen, and discuss character motivations and growth.

(Editorial Note: See readergirlz September archive issue for more about SOLD, by Patricia McCormick. The 31 Flavorites series starts TODAY for teens to chat directly with a different author every single day of the month, so rev up your reading list! 5pm PST, 8pm EST U.S. timezone in their forum here)

Shaping Youth: How has YALSA’s Teen Read week shifted over the last few years to try to gain ‘mindshare’ of teens in entertaining ways? (e.g. I notice you’ve done a fabulous wiki with ideas for getting kids jazzed/engaged, etc.)

YALSA/Paula Brehm-Heeger: Excellent question! I think readergirlz is a great example of the kinds of things YALSA is doing to reach teens “where they are at.” The chance to offer and promote the opportunity to chat online with well-known and much loved teen authors during the entire month of October really helps YALSA keep reading and literature on teens radar in a way that makes sense to teens. We offer not only the wiki to help librarians plan and share events for Teen Read Week but also feature tips and ideas via our YALSA blog and our podcasts to spread the excitement.

Editorial Note: YALSA even has their own Twitter feed, so clearly this isn’t the ol’ brick and mortar venue of stereotyped media portrayals any longer, hear that Hollywood?!–AJ

Shaping Youth: Tell us about the YALSA alliance with readergirlz …How did it come to pass? And are you involved with readergirlz beyond Teen Read week and their 31 Flavorites author chats?

YALSA/Paula Brehm-Heeger: The wonderful author and readergirl Justina Chen Headley, met with me, YALSA’s immediate Past-President Judy Nelson and YALSA’s Executive Director Beth Yoke at the American Library Association annual conference this past June in Washington, DC.

Justina explained the readergirlz idea for supporting Teen Read Week through the 31 Flavorites and emphasized her willingness to leverage the readergirlz author and reader relationships for YALSA.

Her energy was contagious and she had quite an impressive list of today’s most popular teen authors already on board with the 31 Flavorites idea as well. It was clearly a great fit from the first time we talked and YALSA is thrilled to be working with Justina, the readergirlz and the many involved authors on this project. We are all pushing to keep teens reading for the fun of it this October!

RG/Dia Calhoun: I’ll add that 31 Flavorite Authors for Teens is the first foray for readergirlz in a national partnership…It’s been very exciting for us to work with YALSA. We’ll be evaluating more national partnerships with organizations that share our mission: bringing great literature to teens, and in particular, girls. As well, we’re very open to partnering with groups that promote gutsiness in girls.

Shaping Youth: What’s your view on kids’ multitasking? Should they be reading with other stuff going on?

RG/Janet Lee Carey: Multitasking seems to be the new way of life for most of us and lots of teens take it to the extreme. That’s okay as long as teens are content to multitask. But multitasking can be a trap — and endless cycle of do, do, do. Reading allows teens to take time out and go a little deeper, and that’s a good thing. Building up the ability to think, attend, even to turn off all the media and dream gives teens more creative space to grow.

We encourage teen readers not to “change the channel” when they face big issues in books and life. We ask them to stay with it a little longer. When we face big issues, all of us need time to let the solutions seep in. That’s why readergirlz creates the space for teens to come together as they read and after they read and possibly even before they read to discuss Big Issues relevant to the book and to their lives.

Even in the first few months since our inception, we saw readergirlz growing into a caring and thinking community — a place where teens begin to read and reach out to others. These teen readers are our future leaders. We’re going to need people who won’t distract themselves by “switching sites” or “changing the channel” when things get tough.

Shaping Youth: How can reading promotions (like the Ferdinand/Read for the Record Guiness book promo, or this week’s banned books week, or YALSA’s ‘teens top ten’) unite online/offline worlds of kids’ media to encourage pleasure reading and core community?

RG/Dia Calhoun: Anything that brings reading to the forefront is a good thing. As we’ve been saying, competition for teen time is especially brutal these days between IM, TIVO and HALO.

We encourage national groups (YALSA, IRA, NCTE) that are concerned about literacy, as well as publishers and booksellers, to think more creatively and collectively about making reading relevant and fun for teens. We have many ideas about how to accomplish this and 31 Flavorites is only the first of many unprecedented literacy programs we hope to roll out.

Shaping Youth: What’s the biggest misconception that needs debunked about tweens/teens/kids & reading?

RG/Janet Lee Carey: The biggest myth we see is that teens aren’t reading. They are! All you have to do is pop into our site to read countless passionate replies to our chats about books. Teen readers are out there and they care! They are ready to read meaty, tougher books like Patricia McCormick’s SOLD — ready to respond to the intense and challenging issues books like SOLD bring up.

They are also willing to read across genres. We challenge our readergirlz fantasy addicts to try contemporary realistic, our contemporary readers to flip fantasy pages, or explore historicals. We especially encourage our teens to read across racial boundaries and explore cross-cultural lit. Once teens are exposed to good literature and are engaged by it, there’s no turning back. We are so hopeful about the future because of the thousands of girls who are participating in readergirlz. They share with us, show us their courage, and challenge each and every one of us to do the same.

Shaping Youth: I notice the Teen Read Week theme this year is “LOL,” do you find humor to be the biggest ‘hook’ with kids of all ages to draw them into reading universally?

YALSA/Paula Brehm-Heeger: Humor is always a hook for teens and with so many great books celebrating the fun, light side of life, this theme provides librarians a perfect opportunity to draw teens into reading for pleasure. We have a booklist full of just such titles on YALSA. It’s a very recent 2007 collection of Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults in one great list called, “What’s So Funny.”

Shaping Youth: How much are you promoting the LOL theme vs. Teen Read Week seeding the notion of pleasure reading overall? (e.g. obviously readergirlz is using 31 ‘flavorites,’ but not the LOL theme necessarily)

YALSA/Paula Brehm-Heeger: Every year the main theme for the Teen Read Week initiative remains the same — “Read for the Fun of It” with a subtheme that changes each year and serves as a basis for developing programs in schools, public libraries, bookstores and other places where teens gather (which can certainly include online!)

Some libraries run with the subtheme and others celebrate Teen Read Week in unique and individual ways. The bottom line really is that YALSA, libraries and our friends and supporters like readergirlz are encouraging teens to remember that reading can be a really fun, entertaining thing to do! We do this every October through a variety of programs and events.

Editorial Note: YALSA has pre-slated Teen Read Week through 2011 already, so you can mark your calendars!

Shaping Youth: What are your favorite literary sites for kids? Are there book/game/media recommendations you would share to develop a love of pleasure reading? (online or offline)

RG/Janet Lee Carey: We love our postergirlz who interview countless authors and blog about books, books, books! It’s a great place for teen readers to get the latest inside scoop on the best books out there.

For book recommendations and inspiration, readergirlz turn to:
Little Willow’s slayground
Jen Robinson’s Book Page
Jackie Parker’s Interactive Reader
Miss Erin
Alexia

We also especially love the Cybils.

The Cybils give everyone (including teens) the chance to put their favorite book up for the award.

Readergirlz also recognize that boys need reading resources.

We think GuysRead.com is a good starting point for boys. Finally to fill in a much-needed space, we have a longstanding challenge to middle grade authors to create readerkidz. A few excellent children’s authors and illustrators are looking at stepping up to the plate, so keep an eye out.

Shaping Youth: Finally, how much crossover has there been between the YALSA/ALA teens/blogs, etc. and the readergirlz audience? Are the two orgs cross-pollinating with each other in terms of growth? (one bringing readers/writers to another?) What other ways can tweens and teens interact with your org online and offline?

RG/Dia Calhoun: Honestly, we’re not sure how much crossover readergirlz has right now with YALSA (librarians) and other groups. BUT…we do believe that partnerships between readergirlz (a teen online book community) and national organizations that promote teen literacy are important and make sense and create more teen-friendly literacy programs.

RG/Lorie Ann Grover: As for ways to interact, there are a plethora of ways for teens to create community with readergirlz. At our readergirlz website, teens can read an extensive Current Issue about our monthly book pick for book party ideas, an author interview, discussion questions, a related community service project, and other recommended reads.

All issues are archived and accessible to new readers. Past issues are now being sited as resources in the kidlitosphere. Teens can drop into the readergirlz MySpace site and catch up on all the current happenings. They can leave comments for each other and the divas while listening to the month’s playlist and watching a slideshow of recommended reads.

At the readergirlz group forum, they can chat with the featured YA author, as well as other authors, and over 1,200 teens and librarians. Discussions are book related and often emotional, thought provoking, and supportive.

Shaping Youth: Thanks, everyone, for your time, and Paula, we’ll be anxious to hear even more from you and your YALSA/ALA teams as Teen Read Week gets near!

Love the 31 Flavorites idea…(scroll down here for how the idea came to pass with Justina, and how the readergirlz interview landed in The Edge of the Forest, a cool children’s literature monthly)

My own daughter’s putting a 31 Flavorites spin on a special session of her book club crew by inviting them over for an ice-cream social and book swap shop to ‘feed the mind and body.’

Each of her pals will pick one from the “readergirlz flavorites” share a mini-oral review, then put it up for grabs to exchange within the group!

Stay tuned for more reading, writing and youth media contests later in the week when we post interviews with Founder Lisa Izzi from Girls Are Champions/GACtv promoting their first annual “Real Me” contest, and CEO Hugo Bonjean from QuantumShift.tv offering schools $50,000 in prizes for meaningful youth video to “Be the Change, Share the Story!”

Also, heads up that we’re excited to feature Mike Berenstain, of The Berenstain Bears book legacy as our October honoree for People Shaping Youth. As you may recall, we launched our new column of positive picks in the youth arena last month featuring Danica McKellar and her efforts to engage middle-school girls with Math Doesn’t Suck by “selling smarts.”

Mike Berenstain’s interview will be shared with the readers of YPulse, just as we did with Danica’s, as he talks about the resurgence of their brand with new horizons, partnerships and interactive media to stay current with kids, along with the Berenstain Bears family life lessons and media appeal that spans multiple generations.

Stay tuned!

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Comments

  1. Thanks so much for the awesome interview, Amy! We really appreciate your support!

    Lorie Ann, readergirlz diva/author
    On Pointe

  2. You’re welcome, Lorie Ann, readergirlz fits perfectly into our ‘new media’ niche for how we can use the power of media for positive change, Shaping Youth in a meaningful manner!

    We’ll need to get our ‘shortened format’ on Tumblr rolling along though, as there’s so much to say and it always runs long!

    I want to put you in touch with Lisa Izzi at Girls Are Champions too, as she’s doing an awesome job of integrating girls’ voices with sports, media (TV) and reading/writing, drawing activities that unite in full circle to round out media mind, and body!

  3. Thank you so much for profiling readergirlz, and thanks to readergirlz for including me and my blog! πŸ™‚

  4. Very nice interview! Thank you!

  5. The YALSA/readergirlz press is heating up…check this release out of ALA/Chicago:
    http://www.ala.org/Template.cfm?Section=News&template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=166338

    Here’s an excerpt:

    “Teen readers will have the unprecedented opportunity to chat live with 31 popular, critically acclaimed authors in 31 days. Both YALSA and readergirlz hope to motivate teens to read more books for pure pleasure with this program. Teen Read Week is a national literacy initiative administered by YALSA, with the goal of encouraging teens to read, just for the fun of it. This year, Teen Read Week will take place October 14—20, 2007; the 2007 subtheme is LOL @ your library®.

    Every evening in October (5 p.m. PDT, 8 p.m. EDT), teen readers can connect with an author on the readergirlz group forum on MySpace, including top international best-selling author Stephenie Meyer (“Eclipse”), New York Times best-selling authors Meg Cabot (“The Princess Diaries”) and Ann Brashares (“The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”).

    “Readergirlz is bringing teen readers and authors into an exchange like no other before–all in honor of YALSA’s Teen Read Week,” said Lorie Ann Grover, readergirlz cofounder and young adult author. “We’re bringing literature right to teens in their own space, the Internet.”

    “By supporting Teen Read Week, readergirlz makes a statement to teens that reading is an essential and fun part of teens’ busy lives,” says YALSA President Paula Brehm-Heeger.

    “If teens let regular reading fall out of their daily or weekly routine, they lose valuable literacy skills. Teen Read Week is a time to help teens keep their reading skills sharp by reminding them that reading can be fun.”

    For additional information and the complete daily schedule for 31 Flavorite Authors for Teens, please check http://www.readergirlz.com and http://www.myspace.com/readergirlz. To learn more about YALSA’s Teen Read Week, visit http://www.ala.org/teenread

    “For 50 years, YALSA has been the world leader in selecting books, videos and audio books for teens. For more information about YALSA or for lists of recommended reading, viewing and listening, go to http://www.ala.org/yalsa/booklists, or contact the YALSA office by phone, 800-545-2433, ext. 4390; or e-mail: [email protected].”

    Congrats to all…back atcha soon to celebrate Teen Read Weel!

  6. I really wished I could’ve participated in this fully…out of town way too much pinging all over the place…SUCH a worthy way to go…

    Wanted to add this in case other bibliophiles visit here to check these two blog posts about ‘Shelfari’ mining address books the way Quechup did in an opt-out only address book branding ploy. Not a good way to make friends, so beware of spam/social media…

    Better off with LibraryThing or GoodReads.com

    Here’s more about the specific machinations:

    http://www.fullcirc.com/weblog/2007/10/apologizing-to-my-network-for-shelfari.htmBeth
    http://beth.typepad.com/beths_blog/2007/10/dont-register-f.html#comment-88379592

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