Integrating Youth Culture for Youth Literacy

Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM and Junko Sakoi, Tucson Unified School District, Tucson, AZ

Book Flix Wall
Magee is one of the largest middle schools in Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) in Tucson, AZ. Approximately, a third of the 650 students with diverse backgrounds are attending Magee middle school. Students are provided with various STEAM opportunities (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math). The school also offers classes in areas such as theater, computer science, and robotics, among others. Above all, Magee’s library provides rich learning opportunities to digital native students in ways that are relevant to their cultures. The library has been responsive to changes in learning environments in school and society.

In September 2019, Junko visited the Magee library and met the library assistant, Miss. Brittany Butler. Besides the library assistantship, she is managing multiple roles as as a singer, actress, and business owner. She is the CEO/founder and Head Princess at More to the Story Entertainment.

Author's Insta Wall
While walking around the library and looking at displays on the wall, Junko felt welcomed in such a safe environment. She thought the library must be a special space for Magee’s students. Junko found many intriguing items such as toys, artifacts, and social media that don’t usually seem to fit in school libraries, but can be found in the Magee library.

In the library’s entrance, a large bulletin board drew Junko’s attention. The bulletin board that is named, “Book Flix”, demonstrates how the library serves as the shared space for school community members who participate in their book sharing. Students and all of the Magee staff, such as administrators, counselors, teachers and others are involved with sharing their best book choices. An additional feature that caught Junko’s eye was the book authors’ Instagrams. Two of the authors are Robert Lawrence Stine and Fiona Staples.

The wall also displayed Facebook “Abouts” for Miss Butler and student library aides. The interior of the library may make visitors feel as if they are in an art gallery. Mixed genre novels and picture books are thematically displayed along with comics, graphic novels, newspapers, magazines, artifacts, toys, Disney and fairy tale characters, “Stranger Things”–branded classic Coke cans, a classic TV, and other things. They try to entertain students with visually enhanced artifacts. They invite them to have more meaningful interactions, discussions, and explorations than in a traditional library session.

The Classroom
Miss Butler said that besides books she wants to provide her students with a wide range of graphical texts and multimedia tools, which might be authentic reading material for many of them. Students have the chance to enhance their learning about social, political, and historical issues in this library space when those texts have been made accessible. Miss Butler is trying to fill in the cultural gaps between young people and schools. Many young people these days tend to follow social trends while schools tend to be pretty slow with the integration of youth culture into their curriculum. This library space was created after Magee Middle school supported the library staff. Miss Butler’s efforts to close the gaps between students’ literacy practices in school and out–of school contexts through a shared space, the school library, are all visible in every corner of the library.

The Globe
Miss Butler’s definitions of social trends and current events that engage young people with their learning is not limited to new teens’ stuff. For example, the 9/11–history display is one of the highlights in this library, besides all other trendy items. The 9/11 artifacts are located in the center of the library. Miss Butler decided to keep it as a permanent display because remembering such history should not just be a monthly event, but a year long remembrance. In reality, a lot of students don’t know about 9/11. Many young people think it’s not real. It is important to learn about the history and to have questions and discussions about it.

Brittany Butler
Next week, we will share an interview with Miss Butler. Through a live library tour, we will share who she is and how she defines youth culture. She sometimes reads it with a wide scope and sometimes is pretty specific to be responsive to her students’ needs. Aren’t you curious why “Stranger Things”–branded classics Coke cans are displayed in the library?

Journey through Worlds of Words during our open reading hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. To view our complete offerings of WOW Currents, please visit archival stream.

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