Greg Neri to visit the CCJDC

Posted September 25, 2012 by elseyjdc
Categories: Uncategorized

Greg Neri, author of Yummy and Ghetto Cowboy, will be visiting the Champaign County Juvenile Detention Center on October 4th as part of the Youth Literature Festival.  The Youth Literature Festival also has an open community day, with events and readings by a variety of authors.  Here is a flier for the community event



















We’re very excited about Greg Neri’s visit!

Organizing the nonfiction

Posted July 29, 2012 by elseyjdc
Categories: Collection Development, Logistics

Melissa and I spend almost two hours this past Friday working on the nonfiction room. We pasted the newly laminated section labels to the bookshelves and did a thorough read-through of Science, Social Studies, History, Health & Beauty, Psychology & Self-Help, Motivational, Money (which we will be changing to Careers & Money), Places, Adventure, Education, Reference, Spirituality & Religion, Culture & Entertainment, and Parenting (Sports, which is also in this area, was organized several weeks ago when we added spine labels to all the sports books).

We shuffled the placement of the shelves slightly so that Social Studies (which now includes the books previously classified as Politics), History, and Places are all adjacent, as are Health & Beauty, Psychology & Self-Help, and Money, which are now placed close to Motivational and Spirituality & Religion. We also placed sections that are more narrative (History, Social Studies) or practical (Health & Beauty, Money) closer to eye-level to facilitate browsing, while more reference-oriented sections (such as Places, Education, and, as you may have guessed, Reference) are on lower shelves, since those books are more likely to be chosen for a specific need (and thus specifically sought out) rather than read for leisure (and thus tend to be chosen by browsing). And, of course, we sorted through the shelves to make sure everything is in the section it should be

Now I’m in the process of updating the LibraryThing catalog to reflect books’ placement in the current shelving sections. And on Monday, we’ll be adding spine labels to Poetry, Science, and Chapter Books, thanks to new labels provided by the Urbana Free Library:

These labels join the labels we’ve already added to the collection over the course of the summer:

Fiction 15+


Relationship fiction

Fantasy & Sci-Fi

Graphic Novels & Comics


The Classics

The shelves are looking good!


Benefit Fundraiser for ELSEY!!

Posted July 19, 2012 by elseyjdc
Categories: Collaborators, Events and Programs

Learning to roll with the unexpected

Posted July 17, 2012 by elseyjdc
Categories: Events and Programs, Logistics


One of the unique challenges of running a book club at a juvenile detention center is that your participants change from week to week. You can’t count on the youth in the book group to be together long enough to build a rapport and a rhythm for discussion around the format; you have to start fresh to create that anew each week. You also can’t assume that, in any given week, all of the youth participating in the book club will have been at the JDC long enough to have read the book. There is usually at least one youth whom you haven’t met before, who hasn’t read or even gotten the book, and you have to make the hour discussion specific enough to the book to engage the youth who’ve read it in some critical analysis while also keeping the discussion broad enough that youth who haven’t read the book will also find the discussion engaging and can even, if they choose, chime in with insights around some of the themes we’re exploring.

Melissa and I faced a heightened version of that perennial challenge this past Friday, when the group currently reading the Walter Dean Myers memoir Bad Boy consisted of only four youth, three of whom were new since the last time the book club had met. We knew right off what we couldn’t do. We couldn’t put the one youth who’d read the book on the spot for the entire hour; that’s a pretty poor way to reward participation. On the flip side, we couldn’t have a conversation that excluded the remaining majority of youth in the room.

We started by asking a few of the questions we’d prepared that were related to the book but generally applicable to a lot of areas of literature. We also tried to ask questions that used book quotes as a jumping-off point, so we could read a passage out loud and get all the youth onto the same page (literally). This worked for about ten minutes, and then responses petered out.

This led us to an open-ended discussion of books in general. We invited the youth to share their thoughts about what they were currently reading, what they liked or didn’t like about it, and whether they’d recommend it to others. From there, discussion of The Hunger Games and Twilight moved us into an exploration of movies based on books, and the youth (along with me, Melissa, and the supervising staff member) shared their thoughts about the adaptation process, what was changed and how it worked, and which of the media forms they liked better for each story. Given the surge of superhero movies in the past few years, this led into a great discussion of the superhero genre. I can’t emphasize enough how great this genre is as a discussion starter. There’s so much to consider in it: the reinvention of stories across time periods (old favorites like Superman and Batman are constantly restarted) and media formats (comics, TV series, movies), the way good and evil are conceptualized, what it means to be a hero (or a vigilante, or an outsider), which superheroes have particular resonance for youth and why. I think this is an icebreaker topic I will return to in future book clubs, because it turned out to be a wonderful way to get the youth enthusiastic about discussing story and theme and character in a context that was familiar and exciting to them. While we will be returning to Walter Dean Myers next week, I think the rapport and enthusiasm we built with this unexpected but serendipitous detour will make that discussion all the richer.


An art and writing program of interest

Posted July 4, 2012 by elseyjdc
Categories: Resources

Tags: ,

Reclaiming Futures, an organization which works to involve local communities in teen advocacy and intervention work, shared an article about a program called The Beat Within, which “provid[es] incarcerated youth with a forum where they can write (and draw) about the things that matter most to them, explore how they have lost connection with those things they value, and consider how they might re-connect to positive situations in their lives through the power of the written word.”

Like all of us who are part of the JDC library, from the JDC staff to the community partners to the librarians to the volunteers to the book donors and everyone in between, the people behind The Beat Within believe in the power of creative expression to positively impact the lives of youth. As author David Inocencio writes:

…it is the workshops that are the heart of what The Beat Within is all about. To encourage the kids to write and to draw, we begin with a conversation about issues affecting them and how they can make connections between their personal life and the larger community.

Our volunteers package up all of these writings and artwork and submit them for publication in The Beat’s bi-weekly magazine. Every kid who writes receives feedback on their work. When the issue comes out, well, even the young people who might have been suspicious and even hostile applaud when they listen to each other’s writings during the workshops, as well as when they are reading the many entries featured in each issue.

We encourage, through the power of the pencil and paper, for the writing and the art to come from the heart; and that they do!

During these difficult times, we want our contributors to use the art and writing as the light of hope and inspiration. Both channels are therapeutic, meditative, and provide a discipline.

Through art and writing, contributors find this forum as a safe place to reflect on their lives, their current state, as well as dream of a better future. Their work reveals the pride, the pain and insecurities, the fears, and the knowledge, that informs and gives us admirers of The Beat insight of what young people are truly dealing with at this moment in time.

Read the full article for more information and to see examples of the artwork youth have produced as part of this program. It’s nice to be reminded that our work is part of a larger (informal) network of programs around the country that try to improve the lives and futures of incarcerated youth.

Filling in some popular series

Posted June 26, 2012 by elseyjdc
Categories: Resources

Tags: ,

This Monday, Melissa and I added the remainder of our recent book order to the collection. Most of the books were duplicate copies of previous holdings that had been read literally to pieces: all three Coe Booth books (Tyrell, Kendra, and Bronxwood), Ni-Ni Simone’s Teenage Love Affair, and a couple others). But we also were able to fill out a couple of popular series for a slightly younger readership than most of our books are meant for. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (by Jeff Kinney) and Amulet (a graphic novel series by the award-winning comics creator Kazu Kibuishi; check out this thorough review) are both best-selling series aimed at a middle-school audience; Wimpy Kid even inspired a movie. Until now, we had only book 2 of Wimpy Kid and book 3 of Amulet, and both of those books circulated a lot. Now I’m happy to say we have books 1-5 of Wimpy Kid and 1-4 of Amulet.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Collection 5 Books Set

Amulet covers

Kicking off the 2012 summer book club

Posted June 16, 2012 by elseyjdc
Categories: Events and Programs


The book club met for the first time yesterday. Melissa and I handed out the books (one group is starting with After Tupac and D Foster, the other with The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian), and we talked with the youth about what to expect from the book club. Melissa booktalked each of the titles, and then we had the youth read the first chapter and talked about their first impressions.

Both books seem to be engaging readers so far, and I’m looking forward to next Friday when youth will have read more and we can start to really get into discussing the books.