Jaina Lewis Expertly Reads Teens

Stop the presses: Some Westport students waited until the last minute to do their summer reading assignments.

But the smart ones didn’t panic.

A few days before Zero Hour, they headed to the Westport Library.

And made a beeline for Jaina Lewis.

Jaina Lewis, always smiling.

The popular teen services librarian calmly recommended 2 books — the summer reading requirement — for dozens of procrastinating middle and high school students.

Each recommendation was personal. Jaina probed likes and dislikes, and found out what they’d enjoyed reading in the past. (If they enjoyed something. Or ever read a book.)

“Lots of kids haven’t been in the library since they were little kids,” she notes. “The ones who say they don’t like to read — they’re the fun ones for me.”

For them, Jaina recommends books with plenty of action, controversy and/or interest. “Slow books,” with lots of character development, are “not always fun for non-readers,” she says diplomatically.

The hottest young adult titles this summer are The Hunger Games, Divergent (about a dystopian Chicago), Dead to You (a kidnap victim returns to his family years later, and has difficulty acclimating), and the Matched trilogy.

Her encyclopedic knowledge of books wows teenagers. “I have to know a little bit about everything,” Jaina says. One girl asked, “Have you read every book in the library?”

To increase visibility, Jaina spends her afternoons at a desk in the teen section, across from the Maker Space.

“I catch a lot more people who wouldn’t go to the reference desk or ask for advice,” she explains.

After 6 years at the Westport Library, Jaina knows what makes teens tick.

She created a Zombie Club, for very enthusiastic middle schoolers. They meet once a month to play board games, watch zombie movies and socialize.

Teenagers feel welcome at the Westport Public Library.

Soon, Jaina will lead a “headband workshop” in the Maker Space. She’ll show kids how to create special headbands that glow with LED lights.

On November 2, Jaina and several high school volunteers will host a “Haunted Library” event. There’ll be a haunted labyrinth, a paranormal society, a band (and of course food).

She’s also organizing an Odyssey of the Mind team.

“I did it as a kid,” Jaina says of the international problem-solving competition. “It’s technical, but very creative.”

Almost as creative as finding the perfect 2 books for dozens of non-reading teenagers, an hour or two before they’re supposed to be finished.

5 responses to “Jaina Lewis Expertly Reads Teens

  1. Jaina is yet another remarkable gift to the Westport Community from the Library. She is so supportive of all the teens and pre-teens and their diverse interests. We are so, so lucky to have her.

  2. Kerstin Warner

    I’ve known Jaina for all of her years with the Library – she is enthusiastic, innovative, supportive and FUN! We are so fortunate in the terrific library staff we have here in Westport.

  3. Do teens still read S.E. Hinton or is class separation too unrelatable without zombies?

    • Teens definitely still read The Outsiders- it is a classic! But yes, they also read a lot of zombie books. Sounds like there might be a market for some sort of combo…

      • Glad to hear it. Picked it up off my shelf last week and read it over the course of the evening. Still makes me cry.