By Tiffany Stewart - St. Charles City-County Library District
The classroom is cheerful. Colorful posters line the wall and bookshelves are overflowing with choices, but the view outside of the windows gives away the location. Instead of overlooking a yard or a playground, these windows show students a concrete hallway lined with locked, numbered doors. This classroom is not at a school and these kids will not go home at the end of the day. Today’s lessons take place inside of the St. Charles County Juvenile Justice Center.
A youth services team from the St. Charles City-County Library makes regular visits to the Justice Center to provide outreach classes to the young people serving time there. Twice each month Elizabeth and Mindy visit the students, instructing them and providing resources for the teens and their classroom teacher. Today, they are facilitating a role playing game about budgeting and money. Since the young people at the Justice Center won’t make it to the library for instruction, the library is coming to them!
The women go through a metal detector and deposit all of their belongings in an office. They are reminded to count the pens they are taking into the facility and to keep interactions with the students professional. As they set up, the handful of kids in the room remain seated, hunched over schoolwork.
Elizabeth explains that they will be making some choices today during the “Mad City Money Reality Fair” (provided by Vantage Credit Union). A roll of the dice will help students determine a career, spouse, children, and the trajectory of the financial terms of their lives—at least for the next hour. The kids, seemingly uninterested, are prodded by Justice Center staff to stand up and get started.
Each boy (all boys today) rolls the dice and selects a career. They quietly compare salaries, then start to fan across the room to visit the stations that the library has provided. The stations are labeled with categories like GOTTA EAT and HOME STUFF. The teens sit at each station to determine how much money they will need to spend on groceries, car payments, entertainment, and everything in between. Library staff play salespeople, attempting to get the kids to spend more on everything.
At first, the students answer questions with one word answers. They try to complete their tasks quickly with minimal interaction. As time progresses though, and the “salespeople” coax longer answers and more interaction from them, the boys begin to engage. They volunteer information about their prescribed lives:
“I really want to drive a new truck. I’ll live in a box if I have to.”
“Of course my wife is going to wear makeup!”
“I may put this dog up for adoption.”
“I think I’ve made some bad choices here…”
Corrections staff, quiet observers as the game began, are now wandering around and making comments about their own choices and expenses in the real world. There is laughter. The teens listen. They ask questions. The boys mention some things they want out of life. Maybe they are picturing a life beyond their present circumstances. Maybe they are picturing a life that allows for opportunity and better decisions.
After about an hour, Mindy and Elizabeth pack up to go. School continues inside the Juvenile Justice Center, but the mood is a little brighter. Today this group of young men at the Justice Center know that the library is for everyone, even for those who can’t step inside of its walls…yet.
Can you step inside of the library’s walls? What are you waiting for!? The library is for everyone, and that includes YOU. While you’re there, check out these great events at the Boone’s Trail and Augusta Branches:
• Giant Kerplunk (Augusta), Sat., Aug. 4th, 9:00-12:00 drop in. Play a giant version of the classic block-stacking, stack-crashing game of JENGA.
• Movie Night: Star Wars: A New Hope (Augusta), Wed., Aug. 8th, 6:30 p.m. Enjoy this classic Star Wars film. Bring the whole family. You can even dress as your favorite character!
• MahJongg* (Boone’s Trail) Thurs., Aug. 2nd, 16th, and 30th, 1:00-3:00 p.m. Join us to play MahJongg every other Thursday. New players welcome!
• Fiction Fans Book Discussion Group* (Boone’s Trail), Mon, Aug 13th at 6:00 p.m. Read News of the World by Paulette Jiles and enjoy our discussion about the adventures of Captain Kidd in post-Civil War Texas. Refreshments served.
• I Love Quilts (Augusta), Tues., Aug. 14th, 2:00 p.m. It’s Red-Hot August! Bring in a yard of red fabric for our fabric swap. Plus, Quilt Challenges are due. And don’t forget Block-of-the-Month and Show and Tell.
• Library Resources for Home Schoolers (Boone’s Trail), Tues., Aug. 14th, 6:00 p.m. Parents of home schoolers are invited to join us for an introduction to library resources and services that will enhance your curriculum and teaching.
• Spa Day Craft (Augusta), Sat., Aug. 18th, 9:00-11:00 a.m. Make your own bath bombs for fizzy fun relaxation in the tub.
• Book Discussion (Augusta), Mon., Aug. 20th, 2:00 p.m. We’ll discuss The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See. Follow the lives of a Chinese mother and her daughter who has been adopted by an American couple. Discuss with us!
• New Melle Nonfiction Book Discussion Group* (Boone’s Trail), Thurs., Aug. 16th, 10:00 a.m. In Thunderstruck, by Eric Larsen, we’ll follow the lives of two very different men during the Edwardian era. Join us for nonfiction discussion every month. New members welcome!
• Movie Talk: The Dressmaker* (Boone’s Trail) Mon, Aug. 27th, 6:00 p.m. Check out the movie, “The Dressmaker”, starring Kate Winslet, and watch it at home. We’ll meet to discuss this unusual movie about a designer dressmaker who returns home to her rural town and changes everything!
• Coffee at the Library (Augusta), Thursdays at 9:00 a.m. (Boone’s Trail) Wednesdays, 9:00-12:00. Come in for a fresh cup of hot goodness while you browse the library’s latest materials.
• Knit-a-Long (Augusta), Thursdays at 2:00 p.m. The Augusta Knitting Club meets every Thursday to create with friends.
• Discovery Kids: Eggs* (Boone’s Trail), Mon., Aug. 6th, 5:00 p.m. Join us for a story and egg-cellent experiments!
• Story from the Porch (Augusta), Mon., Aug. 6th, 1:00 p.m. We will start a story on the front porch of the library, then continue it as we walk our beautiful property. It’s a personalized Storybook Walk just for you!
• Story Time* (Boone’s Trail), Thurs., Aug. 9th, 6:00 p.m. Stories, songs, and crafts to enhance early literacy. Story time is open to children ages 3-6.
• Story Time: Tea Party (Boone’s Trail), Tues., Aug. 21st, 6:00 p.m. You’re invited to a special Tea Party storytime. Dress in your fanciest tea-time apparel. We’ll have fancy hats and treats for all!
• Story Time (Boone’s Trail), Thurs., Aug. 23rd, 10:30 a.m. Stories, songs, and crafts to enhance early literacy. Story time is open to children ages 3-6.
• Solar System Craft (Augusta), Mon., Aug. 27th, 1:00-6:00 drop in. If you are school age, drop in to paint a watercolor galaxy!
• Club Read: Will in Scarlet (Boone’s Trail), Mon., Aug. 20th, 6:00 p.m. Read Will in Scarlett, a reimagining of Robin Hood, then come to this month’s Club Read, open to grades 4-8. We’ll talk over cool drinks and delicious snacks. Bring a friend!
*Register at www.youranswerplace.org or call Boone’s Trail at 636-398-6200 or Augusta at 636-228-4855.
Boone’s Trail and Augusta branches are open Mon. and Tues. from 12:00 noon-8:00 p.m., Thurs. from 9:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m., and Sat. from 9:00 a.m.-12:00 noon. Boone’s Trail is also open Wed. from 9:00 a.m.-12:00 noon.