Youth-Adult Partnership Spotlight-Spring 2024

I was in advanced classes all through school, but at a certain point I remember battling a sense of failure.  Not because I wasn’t achieving, but because I was achieving in traditionally ‘female’ spaces.  If I was the kind of change agent I imagined myself to be then I should be attacking with vigor the subjects where women were underrepresented.  Instead, I cloaked myself in literature and historical facts.

It can be hard to say in the youth programming world, but that attitude still carries over in a sometimes aversion to S.T.E.M.  This happens because of the same sense of ‘less than’ in change or as a champion of change.  AND, these past few months, it impacted me greatly how the packaging of content to youth makes a difference.  Something can be a ‘spark’ and not ‘spark’ interest.

My ten year old niece signed up for a coding class.  Whenever she signs up for anything, I immerse myself in it.  I searched the public library catalog extensively for books for kids on coding, coding professions and coding and girls.  The skills were mostly what I expected, but the variety of professions was far beyond what I had imagined.  I could have been artistic and analytical.  I could have communicated in foreign languages and coding languages.  I could have been creative and a coder.  More than that, the books specifically addressed a ‘spark’ that drew women to the profession, social change.

Throughout the winter, I had the opportunity to speak with and accompany youth as they explore their ‘sparks’.  At one point, I turned to a co-facilitator and said, ‘what do you want to study next?” and I meant it.


Maybe it’s the possibility for growth in spring. . . It could be the brighter, longer light. . . It made sense to dedicate the Youth-Adult Partnership Spring blog post to ‘sparks’, their what, why and how, and how we connect those details to a ‘who’. The resources this spring consist of a Thriving Book Read.

You can choose how to explore the young adult titles.  You can read alone; you can read the same book in a group; you can read different books in a group  like youth did in the summer of 2020 or a literature circle (example) with a Thriving Focus. Regardless, you are part of Our Wisconsin Conversation.

The purpose of reading fiction is to promote a deeper understanding of key identified Thriving concepts (developmental context, youth thriving, developmental outcomes, long term outcomes) in a context where you as the reader share experiences or want to learn more.  Ultimately, your book choice can’t be ‘wrong’ because the story is the means through which Thriving Elements are explored in practice.  This is similar to the scenarios provided in the Thriving kits.   Always consider:

  • What aspects of Thriving are present?  How?  
  • If they aren’t, how might they be?  
  • Do I or does my work play a similar role?  How might I change my practice or coach a volunteer acting similarly?

Young Adult Fiction Titles:

When It All Syncs Up by Maya Ameyaw   Forgive Me Not by Jennifer Baker 

Chasing Pacquiao by Rod Pulido The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater 

Always the Almost by Edward Underhill Give me a Sign by Anna Sortino 

Fatima Tate Takes the Cake by Khadijah Vanbrakle Iz the Apocalypse by Susan Currie 

Where You See Yourself by Claire Forrest Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith

This Town is On Fire by Pamela N. Harris Saints of the Household by Ari Tison

Those Pink Mountain Nights by Jen Ferguson Clementine and Danny Save the World by Livia Blackburne 

Imposter Syndrome and Other Confessions of Alejandra Kim by Patricia Park 

To find more titles By Spark, sites like Goodreads provide a variety of ways to select via a ‘spark’ connection.  These include genre tags, reader shelf lists and read alikes. Diverse book lists use ‘sparks’ to create lists.  For example, Social Justice Books create lists that connect directly to ‘sparks’ such as Music and Nature.  This site also has lists that connect to ‘sparks’ that are foundations of 4-H such as “Learning a New Skill” and “Changemakers”. Choose an anthology.  An anthology is a great way to work from a topic of interest and get to know authors’ work.  Then you can choose a full length novel. For example:

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