Howland Hosts Remote Programs for Teens

Book clubs and podcast production on library schedule

The Howland Public Library in Beacon holds teen programs remotely, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to make meeting in-person an impossibility.

The High School Battle of the Books was one of the many programs to be temporarily shut down by the pandemic. A summer book club, Battle of the Books holds end-of-year regional “battles” in which local teams face off in a series of rounds. The teams of four are asked questions about the 10 books. Team members can buzz in, briefly confer with one another, and answer. As an alternative to this program, Young Adult Programs coordinator Michelle Rivas (who is a member of the board of directors of Highlands Current Inc., which publishes this newspaper) started a virtual book club.

“I wanted to find a way for the teens to still be able to connect even though the competition wasn’t taking place,” Rivas says. “Since we have all been spending so much time at home, isolated, the book club is a great place to talk about books and other current events.”

Some books were strategically chosen to mirror current events.

“Last summer we read books like Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy and Jennifer Latham’s Dreamland Burning, which helped us learn about history and social issues in a new way,” Rivas says. “Books like Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life as We Knew It helped spark a discussion about how our community came together to help each other during the pandemic.”

As the summer ended, club members voted to continue on into the school year. The program has also expanded to include a middle school book club.

Beacon resident Brandon Lillard is hosting a podcast program for teens via Zoom that’s also connected with the Howland Library. While this is not the first time he has run this program, this is the first time it has been held remotely.

Lillard described the change to Zoom as “a new challenge, but it’s been a good challenge. At least for me, from the instructor’s perspective, it really allowed me to work with people and focus on developing content and their presence on air.”

Despite the change in format, the essence of the program remains the same. The club continues to be a place for members to be creative and share their interests while developing podcasting skills and finding their voice.

“Some of the best parts include providing a space for young people to explore interests they’ve had and maybe find out about new interests or hobbies,” Lillard said.

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