When I first started in teen services seven years ago, it was a different world. If teens weren’t reading vampire books, it was dystopian. Back then, I could count on one hand the number of YA books I could order by BIPOC authors. Now we are all living in a type of dystopian world, vampires are out of vogue, and diverse books are the trend, one that hopefully has longevity.
Much has changed in seven years, but teens themselves haven’t changed. I often get asked what it is like to work with teens so let me be completely honest: it’s so much fun! Teens are curious and clever — sometimes confused and despairing, always interesting. Their thoughts and opinions are so fresh and clear-headed, not weighed down by centuries of adult baggage. They care about the right things.
But most of all, teens are creative. Over the past seven years of programming, I can attest to their brilliant creativity, not just with paint and words, but also in ideas. On more than one occasion, they have floored me in a book club discussion with a deep insight into a character. They can create the most stunning poetry in an hour workshop. They have a freedom of expression that is such a joy to be around.
All that abounding creativity was the reason that Kootenay Teen News was founded two years ago. We wanted to amplify those voices that aren’t often heard in our community and give teens a platform for things that are news to them.
As one of our teen reporters based in Invermere said, “I love that KTN is a different kind of news. I hate watching the news on TV or reading newspapers as do most people my age, but KTN is reporting on real issues while making it interesting to teens. We can write about our interests, bad things happening, things in our schools and communities, anything we don’t see being represented in larger media.”
It was slow going at first. We printed 200 copies and they were just sent to all the local libraries. But, a year later, we have grown and are now publishing 2,500 copies of the paper that get distributed to all the high schools, youth centres and libraries in the Kootenays. Also, the digital issue has hundreds of readers every issue.
There have been lots of happy surprises along the way. For instance, in developing the paper, I thought it would be read primarily by teens, but as it turns out adults are loving the paper too as it is a glimpse into a different way of thinking. There is a senior I know who eagerly waits for each issue!
One teen said that she really appreciates this: “It’s very empowering to be able to write something that people are going to read, and not just your family. Random strangers will read it. I love that because I think it helps me. You are not writing it for someone, you are writing it for whoever is going to pick it up.”
Another teen told me that in being part of the paper, he felt a better sense of his community.
Have I piqued your interest? Interested in supporting the teens in your community? Read a copy of the newspaper! You can find the digital editions on the library’s website or a physical copy at the library. Also, we are always on the lookout for teens who are doing interesting things or who are passionate about something. If you know someone like that, please send them our way!
Melodie Rae Storey is the teen and literacy co-ordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs monthly.