A Room of Your Own: A Book Club for Self-Identified Teen Girls

Finding a way back together

In Fall 2021, we partnered with the A Room of Your Own initiative, opens a new window out of Toronto to offer a book club to self-identified girls (ages 13-18) in Halifax. A Room of Your Own is a book club designed for girls of all ethnicities, races, and socio-economic backgrounds to come together to enjoy literature, crafts, and culinary arts.

In a time that was full of isolation and uncertainty, particularly for youth, it created an opportunity for self-expression and connection.

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“We wanted to create a space where girl-identifying teens would feel safe, welcome and supported,” says Chanae Parsons, Programming and Community Engagement Manager, Eastern District. “I love seeing young women empowered and feeling proud and confident, and that to me, really shone through.”

The pandemic took a large toll on social development for everyone. The book club had about 12 regular participants through its four sessions.  While every session had a virtual option for teens who were unable to make it, “It was such a lovely interaction to have everybody be able to still be together,” says Teen Specialist, Anneka Janes. “I remember that first meeting at Central Library, several of the girls were like, ‘We haven't been out of the house!’. So it’s a big thing, you know, they felt very shy at first.”

Not your average book club

An extra-special thing about this series, says Anneka, is that it’s regional. Library branch staff from across the HRM worked together for a common goal, and recruited participants from across the city too.

The book of focus was So Many Beginnings: A Little Women Remix by Bethany C. Morrow. The novel takes a new spin on the classic Louisa May Alcott story, and features four young Black sisters coming of age during the American Civil War. The teen readers would discuss the book, how it related to their lives, and also found different ways to express these ideas creatively.

So Many Beginnings

“I loved going,” says Allison Leyte, a grade 10 student who took part. “It was nice to go after school and meet other teenagers who had similar interests. We got to explore different things that related back to the book.”

Allison loved the receptivity to the group’s suggestions for activities. “I recommended the painting night and everybody loved the idea. The organizers made it happen and we got together and painted scenes inspired by the book. Everybody else’s paintings were amazing – I loved to see a bunch of creativity.”

The group also cooked gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches one night; and baked apple molasses pies (a recipe inspired by the book!) complete with intricate latticework, with the support of the Library’s Food Specialist, Emily.

Health is here

“One thing we're starting to talk about a little bit more, is how COVID has affected teens’ health, and mental health and wellness,” says Anneka. “And I will say that programs like this really speak to reducing isolation.”

“Mental health can be really, really complex. There can be anxiety coming into a Library space. We focused on trying to make spaces that were a little bit dim-lit so that it was a little more cozy and welcoming. There's so many different layers to that. And I definitely saw through the weeks of having different meetings, I saw some of those young women come out of their shell. They talk about how they're feeling about some of it while, you know, baking a pie or while making a meal together. It was really cathartic for me.”

Finding your place

Allison is a huge reader, and loves being surrounded by books any time she visits or volunteers at the Library. But experiencing a program was new to her.

“The openness to trying other Library programs was something I took away from this. It was such a great experience that I am now open to trying other programs. Plus, I got a nice book to add to my bookshelf!”

Halifax Public Libraries is proud to host a wide array of programs specifically for teens. Many of our branches host weekly Teen Nights complete with gaming, discussions, snacks, and crafts. There is often a different theme every week. We’re keen to see more teens find their way to the Library and share their unique talents and ideas through programs or volunteering.

Allison remarks, “More teens should go to the Library because it’s such a nice way to explore your community. Go out for the day, explore, learn more, and be a part of it.”

Explore more resources and programs for teens on our Teens Page.

This story was originally published as part of the Library's 2021-22 Annual Report to our community. Read and explore the full report here.

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