The library was my favorite place in the world when I was a kid, and because this week is National Library Week, I’m going to show our local library some love.

Nearly every entry in the Ramona diary I kept in grade school detailed a visit to the library, listing the books and videos I checked out. Each summer, I entered my local library’s summer reading contest, striving to read and review more books than any of my peers.

However, as a teen, I strayed from the library. I wish I hadn’t; it probably could have kept me out of trouble.

But my love of words prevailed, and now my favorite part of my “job” as an author of young adult novels is visiting libraries and meeting librarians. Getting to know Lindsey Kraft and Susan Kunkle from the youth services department of our own Forest Park Public Library has been a real treat for me. I’m especially thrilled to see they have developed programming that would have kept me involved at the library as a teen.

I’m sure there are a lot of parents out there who, after enduring their kids’ spring break, are already wondering, how am I going to keep them entertained this summer? Summer camp and other activities might not be affordable this year, but guess what, library programs are free!

This summer’s theme at our library is “Express Yourself” and will include events like a mini-Anime convention and an improv comedy workshop. We may also see another poetry café this summer.

The first poetry café took place on Thursday, April 9 as a way to help teens celebrate National Poetry Month. Twelve kids came to recite their favorite poems and their own poetry. Blue Max donated coffee and scones.

The poetry café was thought up by the library’s teen advisory board and it was part of the monthly writers’ space event. Writers’ space usually meets on the third or fourth Thursday of the month to discuss and work on their own creative writing. It’s been drawing around 10 kids, an equal mix of girls and boys, with new faces joining each month.

Teen programming, such as writers’ space, the Anime critics group, and the Manga discussion group usually takes place on Thursdays at the library, but this Saturday, April 18, the library will host “Pre-Prom Glamorama Afternoon.” There will be spa products, makeup and hair demonstrations, and giveaways. Susan said they hope to draw more girls out with this event because, unlike other libraries, they tend to draw many more boys than girls.

One of the reasons boys are so keen on our library might be the very popular “Open Gaming Fridays,” which runs every Friday afternoon from 3 to 5. Since their GameCube broke recently, they have been using an older Nintendo system, but the kids love it and the games are friendly for all ages. Susan said she’s noticed open gaming has been teaching [kids] to work together. They are from very different age groups – between age 10 and 15 – and this is their common link. It brings them together as friends and creates a harmonious space, she said.

The most wonderful thing about libraries is they have programming for all ages. There’s story-time for your toddler, a book club with pizza for your fourth, fifth and sixth-graders, and book clubs and workshops for adults too. The best place to find out about all our library has to offer is through the Calendar of Events page on the library Web site (

Stephanie is the author of “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” and “Ballads of Suburbia.” She’s a proud Forest Parker who holds a master’s in fine arts degree from Columbia College Chicago. She also works locally at the Beacon Pub and loves to hear from people through her Web site