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Niagara Falls
Sunday, April 14, 2024
Youth book club at the library

Ironically, a post on social media instigated an actual face-to-face social group at the Niagara-on-the-Lake library.

Bethany Poltl, NOTL’s unofficial advocate for local youth, spotted a post from the library on Facebook. The post was about book clubs at the library, and it lit a fire under Poltl’s typing fingers. She promptly contacted the library with her burning thought: What about a youth book club?

Emma Burkholder quickly became Poltl’s enabler. Burkholder is a customer service associate at the library, and is also studying for her Master of Library Science degree, aiming to specialize in teen services. “I am so excited for the library to host a teen book club,” she says. “I think it’s going to be a lot of fun!” She emphasizes that Poltl has the leadership on this series of events, “I’m just helping her facilitate it.”

The two have been collaborating enthusiastically on the project, and have come up with some interesting ideas to make it all the more appealing to local youth. Burkholder suggested monthly themes, linked to greater celebrations and memorials. Gay pride in June, for example. “The club aims to be very inclusive,” says Poltl, adding that social justice will be one of their criteria for some book choices.

Books on the list to choose from include The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas; Night by Elie Wiesel; The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, and The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer.

Poltl is a huge fan of the library. “The teen space is bright and welcoming, so inviting. It has awesome chairs — definitely a good place to hold book club meetings,” she enthuses about the Kinsmen-sponsored spot.

Burkholder has made lists of suggested titles drawn from the library’s copious young adult section, with a  special eye for winners of the Prince literary award — a coveted YA prize. The book club’s first meeting, on Sept. 30 at 1:30 p.m., will be a tasting of what’s to come. They will discuss books and genres, and learn what each other enjoys reading. Participants will then vote on the book choices for upcoming meetings.

Says Poltl, “The most inspiring thing about this is that so much is online, we’re so digitally focused — I want to give teens an opportunity to disconnect and meet in person, speak face-to-face, have a social experience through literature.” Good thing she didn’t disconnect completely and miss that Facebook post.

Teens from Grade 7 and up are encouraged to sign up for the Youth Book Club online via the library’s website.

Further to her future official role in teen services, Burkholder says she’s very keen to hear from the younger set. “I am open to ideas and thoughts — I’d love to get as much feedback as possible from kids in the community.” She encourages young people to consider proposing group activities similar to the youth book club. As with this one, she will help to facilitate — and an added benefit: “The teens can gain fun volunteer hours by running a program. They can also add something interesting to their resume.”

Or they can just hang out in the teen space and play board games, read, watch movies, or play on the PS4.

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