A lot is said and written about using a “strength-based” approach with young people. But what does that really mean? If you talk to bestselling authors Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor, you’ll quickly find out that a strength-based approach is all about providing young people with opportunities to be active co-creators of their learning and lives.

Ragsdale and Saylor’s new book, Groups, Troops, Clubs, & Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth, just rolled off the press, and readers will find dozens of ways to infuse their programs or classrooms with a strength-based approach.

These bestselling authors of Great Group Games say their job as youth workers is to help young people

  • develop and practice skills
  • find and pursue interests and
  • become engaged in community life in meaningful ways

What the experts are saying about Groups, Troops, Clubs, and Classrooms

“A strength-based approach represents the idea of youth being at-promise rather than at-risk,” write Ragsdale and Saylor, “and it honors the strengths and giftedness innate to youth.”

The idea of viewing a child as at-promise doesn’t mean painting an unrealistic, pretty picture. Rather, the authors coach adults to include truths about a child that are left out by the dominant language of being at-risk, which tends to be negative and even damaging. At-promise broadens the perspective, fills in some of the details, and reminds us that all children have natural gifts, positive qualities, and potential for goodness. The act of focusing on strengths is different than the cultural norm of zoning in on what needs “fixing.”

Readers of this book will discover how to

  • use games and activities to connect learning strategies to program and classroom outcomes
  • make a program space or classroom welcoming while encouraging learning and leadership
  • help young people get in touch with their “sparks,” those activities and interests that most inspire them
  • forge strong relationships with young people where they feel both challenged and supported
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