Kara Youngblood

NAZA Reading Mentor and Teen Librarian, Bordeaux Branch Library

I have a background in education and love working with after-school programs. As a teen librarian for NPL, I was asked to serve as a Reading Mentor for NAZA’s after school program site, John Early Middle School.

Through a partnership between NAZA and Girls, Inc., I met regularly with a group of fifth-through eighth-grade girls and facilitated a book club. We all read Neil Gaiman’s novel “Coraline,” and after weeks of discussing the book and the girls’ favorite parts of the story, we held a movie night at the Bordeaux library to watch the film. The girls were allowed to leave school early, and for many of them, it was their first time in a public library. This program not only showed these students what the library had to offer, it also exposed them to literature they had not read before and got them excited about reading in a big way. In fact, they were more excited about reading the book than watching the movie!

One girl said after the first day, “I’m so excited to go home and read this chapter again with my mom tonight!”

The NAZA after-school program partners with organizations like Girls, Inc., YMCA, the Center for Refugees and Immigrants of Tennessee, the Pencil Foundation, and many others. It is a tremendous effort, and the program gives these kids something concrete and worthwhile to do after school. A lot of these kids go home to an empty house, and they aren’t supervised during those hours. Having an after-school program allows them to learn new things, get involved with their community and feel like they are a part of something. These students are proud of what they are doing, and it’s positively reinforcing their self-confidence and encouraging them to truly go after their dreams.