Community Service Opportunity For Teens Who Love To Read Wildly

Community+Service+Opportunity+For+Teens+Who+Love+To+Read+Wildly

Graham Balanoff

Slider photo from kcparent.com

Attention! Calling all students ages thirteen and older! There are untapped community service opportunities. The Johnson County Library (JOCO) has two wonderful programs where teenagers can earn hours by reading and reviewing new books and attending council meetings filled with games, author visits, and more. 

The Young Adult Literary Council (YALC) has been organized through the Blue Valley branch of JOCO for at least ten years. The council gathers every first and third Sunday of the month 2:00 P.M. to participate in conversations with authors, play games, do crafts, and more. Participants receive one hour of community service for each meeting. “The number of participants ebbs and flows,” says Johnson County representative, Tiffany Rinne. “It depends on who’s running [the council] and the general interest of the teens.” 

However, when the pandemic hit, smaller groups that were just starting up had to step back, like at the Lenexa branch, which only had three members. 

The YALC was typically held in person at the Johnson County Library, but COVID-19 has offered some complications. Photo from Johnson County Library

The Galley Club is run through the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) and has active periods of two consecutive years. After that, the library has “to take two years off, then you can reapply” says Rinne, which allows other libraries and school literature clubs across the country to “get in there and get the experience.” This year was a special case, and due to COVID, “they gave us a third year.” 

Within YALSA, volunteers can vote for the Teen Top Ten list. This is an awards program for Young Adult (YA) books that is voted on by teens. Those involved in the Galley Club are a part of “discerning what [are] going to be the top YA books of the year, and [what books] land on that list,” says Rinne. The first Teen Top Ten list was released in 2003. 

Volunteers are sent a list of books and can choose two from this list. The books that students receive through the Galley Club are advanced reader copies, called galleys. This means that you’re “getting them months, sometimes eight to nine months before they’re hitting shelves,” says Rinne. Through this club, there are also tastemaker events, hosted by Fierce Reads, a blog that recommends books, hosts author events, and has giveaways. These events include small group talks with the authors being published by Fierce Reads, with three authors and ten to 15 teens. Overall, this program helps figure out “which books are the best books coming out, and what is going to end up being popular,” says Rinne. 

The YALC and the Teens Top Ten are run primarily out of the Blue Valley branch of Johnson County, but this doesn’t mean that people can’t join if they’re in a different area. Not everyone that reviews the galley books joins the YALC. Some don’t even care for the community service hours as they just enjoy reading and reviewing books before they hit the shelves. At the moment, there are around 35 people on the galley review mailing list. 

This year, I was able to join both the Galley Club and YALC. I have only been to one YALC meeting so far. In the meeting, we played some board games online and chatted with each other for a while. With the Galley Club, the two books I chose to read were “Between Perfect and Real” by Ray Stoeve and “Hello, Cruel Heart” by Maureen Johnson. Both of these books will be released in April. I highly recommend joining the Galley Club as it introduced me to wonderful new books that were quickly added to my favorites list.

The YALC program is a great opportunity for bookworms to earn some community service by doing what they love. Photo by Aaron Kohl

These groups are a “great opportunity if you love to read, to read wildly, to get lots of free books, expand your own personal library, and share books with others,” Rinne explains. The YALC is a wonderful way to connect to those who love to read and forge friendships outside of school. If you enjoy teen literature, you like to make known what you enjoy, and you put your opinions into the world, these programs are all about “hearing teen voices around the book world,” Rinne says.
You can join either of these groups by emailing Tiffany Rinne ([email protected]).