Library display gives kids a voice
Talia Linina, a youth services associate at Heights Libraries, wants to know what kids are thinking, and she has a fun, creative way of finding out.
Every Monday, she creates a display by the Lee Road branch children’s reference desk called Question of the Week. She sets out a sign with a question, slips of paper for writing down the answers, colorful pens, and something she calls “the rainbow box of mystery,” a multi-colored box with a hole in the top where kids submit their answers.
“I wanted to create an interactive display that would get kids to practice reading and writing,” said Linina. “And I also wanted to get to know the kids that come to our library and see what was on their minds.”
Linina plans questions months ahead of time and alternates simpler questions, like "What's your favorite color?" with ones that require a little more thinking, such as "How do you show your family members that you love them?" Then, at the end of the week, she collects the answers and displays as many as she can fit on the Question of the Week board. “The wider variety of questions I ask, the more kids I can engage,” she said. “And the kids like seeing if their answer from the previous week made it on the board.”
“I hope the display shows them that we want to know what they think about things, that we're here and we're listening,” she said. “We've based some programming ideas on the answers they've submitted, so I really hope that the kids see that their voices have power."
Linina said it also gives staff a way to get to know the kids by giving them a reason to spend time at the reference desk, talking to staff about the new topic each week. “I love seeing the answers kids give—there's always something unexpected, from snarky, to sweet, to incredibly insightful,” she said. “Some kids even draw us pictures.”
The display is a hit with the library staff. “I'll go to tell another staff member about a cute or funny response, and they'll tell me that they've already seen it—we're all peeking at it throughout the week.” Recent staff favorites have included “Care about our planet” and “Not go to war” in response to the question, “What do you wish grown-ups did more?” and “Kind of bossy” in response to the question, “What is your best friend like?”
For those who are curious, the answers are periodically posted on the library’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, and the display is easy to find in the children’s area. Just ask a staff person.
Sheryl Banks is the communications manager for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library system.