Getting Good Reads To Incarcerated Teens

By Betsy Mikel in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 9, 2010 4:40PM

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photo courtesy of Chicago Deskset
Just like everyone else, libraries are feeling the budget cut crunch. Illinois Juvenile Detention Center libraries are no exception. According to a recent story from the WBEZ Inside and Out series, the Illinois Youth Center-St. Charles library hasn't received new books or periodicals since budget cuts in 2001. So St. Charles librarian Rick Fryer manages on donations. That'd be great if he got enough books teenagers actually wanted to read. In the WBEZ story, he picks up a donated book:

"Lets see. Music and Western Civilization. I don't think that's read too much. Man and His Music. Looking through the chapters… instrumental music in the late baroque. I really kind of doubt that that's what they're really into, you know?"
Shortly after we heard this story and started wondering what we could do about getting good books into the hands of incarcerated teens, we heard about Chicago Deskset. They're a brand spanking new group of bibliophiles, librarians, archivists, information professionals, and friends of libraries who are putting their bookish heads together to find new ways to improve their communities. To kick off National Library Week, they're organizing a book drive tomorrow for incarcerated teens at The Grafton Pub and Grill. Chicago Deskset is using the book drive as a meet-and-mingle event to generate buzz and ideas for their overall mission. Both the economy and fast pace of new technology have turned libraries across the country upside-down, and Chicago Deskset librarians believe a grassroots organization is the best way to bring change to the profession and to Chicago.

And so, the book drive is how they are starting. Chicago Deskset is trying to fill Chicago-area juvenile detention centers with good, relevant, and age-appropriate books. So if you're embarrassed that you actually bought the whole Twilight series, we hope you'll consider donating the books tomorrow. Librarian Rick Fryer, from the WBEZ story, says the young men at St. Charles like John Grisham, Stephen King and simply books that are in good condition:

"If you've got a kid who doesn't read very well and you give him a book that's kind of... I don't know, just really beat up and ripped up, it doesn't really encourage them to continue reading."

For other ideas, look to the Young Adult Library Service Association, which publishes a list each year of the best books for young adults as well as a top ten list. Good Reads also has a user-generated list of the best young adult books. All the Harry Potter and Twilight books make the list, as well as some classic favorites from our young adult days such as The Giver, Bridge to Terabithia, and The Chronicles of Narnia.

Chicago Deskset book drive for incarcerated teens will be from 3 p.m to 5 p.m. at The Grafton Pub and Grill, 4530 N. Lincoln Ave.