Youth in detention write a lot. In my previous post,I discussed the value of youth writing suggested reading lists and book reviews. In the context of juvenile detention center libraries, this work can instill a sense of achievement and leadership.
As exciting as book reviews might be to librarians and some youth, for many youth in detention writing a book review sounds as exciting as…homework. Of course, this does not mean youth in detention are disinterested in writing. Far from it. At a recent staff meeting at the JDC where I work, I proposed a writing workshop program. An administrator responded, “Yes! The youth in here are always writing, especially song lyrics.” She went on to explain that while youth write poetry and lyrics on their own, a music production program was currently being offered at the JDC and many of the residents were scribbling down lyrics at every opportunity. I want to develop a program that builds from the projects the youth are completing in the music production program without coming off as redundant. One thing I would really like to work towards in an anthology of youth writings that we can keep in the JDC library. I am already developing a ‘youth author’ section of the library with some great writing from youth in other detention centers. If you are interested in collecting the work of youth who have been in detention, check out the work of:
Each organization publishes poignant and thought-provoking work.
I am not sure how this ‘youth authors’ section will go over, as materials are just starting to come in. Also, I am not sure about even calling it “youth authors.” While I want to keep the section open to all youth authors, this collection will most likely feature the voices of youth who have been incarcerated. Maybe calling it “voices from the inside” would be more effective and engaging? Whatever it ends up being called, my hope is that the section will be a seen by the youth as an invitation to write and share their experiences with others. I think it is also important that youth have the opportunity to share beyond the walls of the JDC. I have been looking around at different publications that feature youth authors. Below are some resource guides and writing contests that might interest you if you are offering writing workshops:
Every youth voice deserves to be heard!