ELIZABETH, NJ – Great readers are created by reading great stories as Elizabeth Public Library Associate Tracy Robinson proved through her work with teenagers in the Great Stories Club, a program of the American Library Association.

The Great Stories Club is a reading and discussion program for at-risk teens ages 12 to 18 that met in the library every other week for three months. The club concluded with a ceremony April 6 where each participating teen received a certificate from the ALA.

Explained Robinson, who manages teen services for the library, “I wanted a comfortable environment for teens to share a full scope of ideas whether social, political, or personal. I wanted them to explore the intellectual part of themselves through critical reading, but also to build relationships with their peers.”

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Those goals seem to have been achieved. “They are such a tight group,” observed Robinson. “I see them together in the library, and they hang out outside, too.”

The 12 teens read “Feed” by M.T. Anderson, “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, and “March: Books One” by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell. Although some members like Natalie Hernandez liked to read, others like sister and brother Sandra and Roman Mieses, 14 and 16 years old respectively, learned to like it. “Mostly we discussed and described the books and that helped me to better understand books,” said Sandra.

Her favorite book? “Feed was amazing. That book really spoke to me.”

Added Roman, “I didn’t like to read, and I was anti-social. The club helped me work on my reading and people skills.”

But the true test of the club’s success is measured a different way. All the club members are planning to continue.

The participating teens:

Andres Bustos

Natalie Hernandez

Katherine Justiniano

Ruby Hernandez

Alihanisha Piza

Roman Mieses

Jaiden Montgomery

Sandra Mieses

Rosa Vasquez Martinez

Loren Tolentino

Brian Pretel