When her Born This Way Ball tour rolls into St. Paul, Minn., on February 6, Lady Gaga will be bringing more than music to her fans – known as Little Monsters. The pop icon’s Born This Way Foundation has teamed up with the St. Paul Public Library for a program called Read Brave, which is designed to encourage youth empowerment. Teens who participate in the program can win a chance to board Lady Gaga’s Born Brave Bus prior to her February 6 concert.
The Born Brave Bus is traveling to Lady Gaga’s U.S. tour dates and partnering with local organizations for pre-concert tailgate events where youth under 25 can participate in creative activities, bond with other fans, and learn more about various community resources.
The cornerstone of Read Brave is the book Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King (Little, Brown, 2011), which features themes of bullying, war, and family relationships. The library is encouraging as many people as possible to read it in anticipation of King’s visit at the end of February. And teens who read the book have the opportunity to respond to it in creative ways – anything from videos to songs and photography – and [submit their project digitally] sppl.org/teens/brave for a chance to win prizes that include a VIP pass onto the Born Brave Bus and the possibility of having their work displayed on the bus.
“Read Brave started as an idea for a One Book, One Library campaign,” explains Marika Staloch, youth services coordinator at the St. Paul Public Library. “I had met Amy King and she is so enthusiastic about working with the public. Everybody Sees the Ants has such timely content; we thought it could promote a lot of good discussions.”
As work on the One Book idea took off, another staff development project underway at the library was focusing on bullying, which also tied in to King’s book. In addition, the library had been thinking of new ways to get teens involved in technology projects after receiving a grant to originate a learning lab for teens, inspired by the YOUMedia teen learning space at the Chicago Public Library. YOUMedia had already established connections to the Born This Way Foundation: teens from the center helped design the decked-out-in-artwork Born Brave Bus early in 2012. The idea of soliciting Everybody Sees the Ants responses helped pull together all the St. Paul library’s efforts; the result is the Read Brave program (which also includes a February 9 visit from Thirteen Reasons Why author Jay Asher).
“I don’t know how it all worked out, but I sure am happy about it,” says King. She adds, “To be able to get people to read a book that has strong messages of anti-bullying, self-esteem, and taking control of your own life, and then have them respond to it creatively is pretty amazing.”