Thanks to partnerships between the library and local community organizations, young people in Madison are having more opportunities to connect with authors that are relevant to them.
When Glenna Matteson, Teen Services Librarian at Meadowridge Library, learned author Jason Reynolds was a featured guest at the Wisconsin Book Festival, she made sure youth in her community wouldn’t miss out. She partnered with MSCR Meadowood Neighborhood Center (MNC) to organize a field trip so that teens from the library could hear him speak, even reserving them front-row seats at the event. Reynolds was so engaging and youth were able to relate to his words. Even one student who had been reluctant to attend left saying, “What that guy does, I want to do that.”
The success of this first author field trip inspired Glenna to explore similar opportunities. She learned Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give, was coming to the Goodman Community Center and began making plans for another event. MNC staff took time to read The Hate U Give before the field trip and worked with Glenna to encourage teens to do the same. The library covered the cost of transportation and dinner before the event. Thanks to a grant from Madison-based Reading Group Choices, each teen was able to take home their own copy of the book.
Angie Thomas’ talk focused on how our kids can change the world by choosing what they care about and taking an interest in their community. She also spoke about Tupac Shakur's poem "The Rose that Grew from Concrete," and explained this is how youth should be viewed: beautiful creatures that are thriving and succeeding despite adverse conditions.
“It was so meaningful to me to watch our youth, again, feel seen by an incredible author!” says Glenna. “One girl in particular, Charnee, moved to Madison last year from Mississippi and was thrilled to learn that Angie Thomas grew up in Mississippi as well. Her joy at recognizing similarities with this author made the whole experience worth it to me.”
Glenna’s goal is to continue connecting teens with authors that are reflective of their own lives. She’s hoping to encourage authors to host events at Meadowridge Library and continue to form partnerships that help bring teens to author events in the community. She already has plans for another field trip in February to see illustrator Stacey Robinson of I Am Alfonso Jones.
“Every time I’ve connected students with authors, it’s been an amazing experience.”