Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Twinkle, Twinkle little STAR

We held our last STAR session on Monday. Six sessions of girl alternately not giving a crap and listening really intently and participating. Six sessions of pregnant teenagers eating Cups 'O Noodles and Popcorn for lunch. Six sessions that were designed to be presented with babies in the room that we had to redesign on the fly.

We went out not with a bang but with a whimper. Session 6 is "Print Motivation," or basically "Make Reading Fun" and the ENTIRE session is based around having a baby there to interact with, as opposed to the other sessions where a baby was only necessary for 20%-30% of the activities. So we ran through verse six of Hickory Dickory Dock (even the most jaded girl joined in this time! I think she has a soft spot for Hickory Dickory Dock that I do not share) and I did a super speedy version of "Where's Spot" that did no favors to Eric Hill's great lift-the-flap book. Then we busted out the cupcakes and pomegranate lemonade and asked if anyone had any questions.

They didn't, so we collected our evaluation forms and left.

Overall I was really pleased with the STAR sessions. As previously noted it was a pain in the ass to be working off a script that included small children. And not just because of the time we had to cut, or the missed opportunities to see cute kids (you really can never get enough). People, especially teenagers, are a lot more willing to do silly stuff if a baby is involved. Otherwise it's just a bunch of girls shooting side eyes at each other, or begrudgingly participating, while two overly enthusiastic librarians stand at the front of the room and sing the alphabet song.

It also really, really depended on the day with these girls. And I get it, you're pregnant and in algebra. Your boyfriend isn't helping and when he does, he gets all sorts of praise for just showing up. Praise that nobody would ever think to give to you, with you it's expected. You're sick, you're tired, your body is revolting against you and your diet consists mainly of over-warmed school food. Listening, much less participating, in workshops led by women who don't even have children and who are talking about doing even more work than you're already putting in is not how you want to spend your lunch break. But still, it just takes one girl in a bad mood to turn a good session into a conversation on race.

In between the frustrations, there were some truly great moments and some truly great girls. Sa'nai was there every single session and she paid attention, so much so that she remembered both my first and last names from week to week. She took notes and worried about her diet. She's going to do right by her baby because of all the effort she's putting in now. She's not even showing yet, but she joined the Teen Parenting group the second she found out she was pregnant. Last week the girls really got into dissecting letters into smaller shapes. We talked about recognizing circles and triangles in letters and by the time they got done shouting out suggestions we had erased the white board twice and they were coming up with examples I hadn't thought of. Two girls from the class have made the trip to the library to find either me or the other presenter and another seemed much more interested once we told them that right now you can get all your library fees canceled.

We'll be revisiting this high school and these girls again in the spring with a representative from the organization who granted us the money to put on the workshops. They'll do some interviews and we'll give each girl, some of whom will be new mothers by that point, a big and beautiful copy of a Rosemary Well's Mother Goose book as a baby gift. I for one can't wait to see them in the spring and I hope some come into the library before then.


  1. Thank you for sharing your experiences. It sounds like you had a long and sometimes difficult road with this project, but I'll bet you touched more lives than you think. Good for you for putting yourself out there and offering this valuable service!

  2. If you ever do this program again, I wonder if you could bring in a teen mother or former teen mom? My sister in law had a baby when she was 19 (she is now 21 and mom to the world's most awesome 3 year old) and she could help explain why pre-reading skills are important.