With messages everywhere, teens can take back power by making their own voices heard.
It is impossible to go through the day without consuming information. In fact, there is so much competing for our attention that it can be dizzying. In 2014, spending on advertising in the United States was $180.1 billion. With people being bombarded by messages, not necessarily for their own good, it can be tough to remember the value of our own experiences. Teens have important lives, important stories to tell. Sometimes, it is the job of adults in their communities to remind them of this. Librarians can be catalysts to their discoveries.
Teens can feel like their lives, which aren’t cut to thirty eye-popping seconds of air-brushed glamour, don’t matter. They DO matter. Teens who are validated are also empowered. Engagement isn’t a minor deal. There was a report in 2004 that said, “student engagement has been found to be one of the most robust predictors of achievement and behavior in schools, a conclusion that holds regardless of whether students come from families that are relatively advantaged or disadvantaged socially or economically.”
So, getting students involved in their own learning can be like switching on a light bulb. Either they are into what they are doing or not. Don’t we all prefer when we can relate what we do to our own lives? I know that I do. If it seems distant or foreign, it doesn’t work for me. If it seems unattainable, like those images in ads that teens constantly see, it can actually be damaging. For teens to tell their own stories replaces “Why can’t I be like that?” with “I am like this.”
Staff from The Kansas City Public Library recently teamed with MindDrive (link to http://www.minddrive.org), an organization whose mission is “to inspire students to learn, expand their vision of the future and have a positive influence on urban workforce development. Our objective is to involve the adults of our community in the education of the children of our community.”
Here is what Linda Buchner, President of MindDrive, said. The Kansas City Public Library youth staff helped “the students create a poignant piece by guiding and gently encouraging them to dig deeper, helping them to create wonderful ‘moments in time’ when their lives seemed to change. The students took to the assignment right away, were very eager to record their audio piece and then lay the images and music in around it. It was magical to watch each story emerge.”
In three minutes or less per video, the teens conveyed moving, life-changing events. In the process, they came to know each other better and to appreciate their own abilities to communicate. What a great way for us to uphold the Kansas City Public Library’s mission to “support individuals of all ages pursuing a program of independent learning.”
Anna Francesca Garcia earned her Master of Library and Information Sciences degree from the University of North Texas and has worked for a decade in public libraries in Nevada and Missouri. So far, she has created three digital stories. Her seven-year-old daughter expressed interest in making one but decided to dictate a made-up story for her mom to type instead.
 MCPHERSON, DOUG. “U.S. Ad Spending Sees Largest Spike In Decade.” Response 22.11 (2014): 7. Business Source Complete. Web. 17 Dec. 2014.
 “Students as Co-Constructors of the Learning Environment: Building Systemic Approaches for Youth Engagement.” Academy for Educational Development. (2011): 32. ERIC. Web. 17 Dec. 2014.