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Service member children gathered for the Teen Reads program hosted by Marine Corps Community Services at the Harriotte B. Smith Library aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, recently. The teenagers get together once a month to have group discussions about the readings.

Photo by Pfc. Nik S. Phongsisattanak

Base library keep youth interested with Teen Reads program

10 Jan 2012 | Pfc. Nik S. Phongsisattanak

There are a variety of avenues for teenagers to seek entertainment. In today’s culture, the latest and greatest gadgets or video games seem to be the focused interest of many American teens, and also make up the majority of consumer sales in America. Video gaming systems have provided a three-dimensional interactive world where the player can partake in the virtual story. Now, teens are more likely to stroll down the aisles in an electronic store rather than the aisles in a library.

But there are teenagers who still appreciate the quality of a well written book, and believe that books provide another category of entertainment that is different from a movie or game. Some of them can be found at the Teen Reads program held at Harriotte B. Smith Library aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

“Books are so much more detailed, and sometimes they’re too detailed,” said a girl who attended the Teen Reads. “But, the images depicted in our heads are left to our creative imaginations, and books get more in-depth with the story. That’s why I enjoy books more than movies.”

Teen Reads is for military dependents from ages 12 through 18. The reading group gathers in the teen room at the library every first or second Tuesday of the month, and each month the group reads and holds a discussion about the book selected for the month. “The Hobbit”, written by J. R. R. Tolkien, was the book they reviewed during the Teen Reads, Jan. 10.

“We’ve been blessed in the past to be able to provide 10 families with a copy of the book,” said Fran Bing, a library technician at Harriotte B. Smith Library.. “I don’t know if we’ll be able to continue that because that’s a chunk of change, and we have three book clubs. That’s a total of 30 books a month.”

Teens are always hungry, so Bing provides pizza and beverages at every Teen Reads meeting. It is an opportunity for them to hang out, relax, meet and make friends, and sometimes leave with a book.

“It’s a good way to get the kids active in the library, and they pick the books,” said Bing. “Last year’s club picked this year’s list. I didn’t pick them.”

The group talked about the personalities of characters, how they lived, learned, grew and evolved through the story. The story of each character was a way of teaching morals and ethics, and Bing allowed the teens to identify all of them. They also talked about the author and how he influenced other authors to write fictional fantasy novels inspired by his stories.

“It’s not like a classroom,” said Bing. “We just respect each other, and everyone is entitled to their opinion. Some of them come in hating the book, some don’t know anything about the book, and some come in loving the book. Sometimes by the end, one side or the other will have swayed the others.”

The teens seemed to know every detail of the book, as if they had immersed themselves into every word and lived the adventure in another type of consciousness, which seemed as magical as the stories themselves. Their eyes brightened up when they described the scenes that excited them. One person would begin by telling the scene, and others would add with his or her words, collectively telling the story together.

A 12-year-old girl compared the character’s lifestyle of going from boring to adventurous to some who has eaten bland food their whole life to eating flavorful, delicious foods.

“These kids are bright,” said Bing. “We’ll have philosophical discussions and I’m like ‘wow, you are all in (advanced placement) classes right?’ They are a very smart bunch of kids. They are not normal teenagers, because there’s no such thing as a normal teenager. We’re probably the biggest geeks here. But this is also the group that plans the teen programs. They tell us their ideas and we try our best to make it happen.”

According to Bing, the teens help to plan the majority of the programs offered to the military dependents. Last year, volunteered 475 hours to the library.

Bing said the program was a way to get kids to come to the library and meet people because so many military kids can find it hard to walk-up and introduce themselves. Moving in a military world can make it challenging for a dependent to make friends.

“The kids love the program because they get to decide what they want to do,” said Bing. “What I love about them is they keep me from being old. They keep me in touch with what’s going on, and what’s popular, and this is the key to the success of the program.”
Teen Reads has been going on since 2005. Next month, Teen Reads will be covering all three of the Lord of the Rings books.

For more information on the programs offered at the library, visit