Last fall, as part of a literary citizenship requirement for a short form fiction class I took with Bruce Holland Rogers in the Whidbey Writers Workshop MFA program, I attended an orientation workshop at 826 Seattle in preparation for volunteering for them on a regular basis. If you’re a children’s writer and you don’t know about 826, you should check them out. They are the best!
826 is a nonprofit writing and tutoring center dedicated to helping youth, ages six to 18, improve their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. The Seattle branch is one of seven national chapters. The original, 826 Valencia, a project started by the writer Dave Eggers, is located in San Francisco’s Mission District. The other five are located in New York, Chicago, Ann Arbor and Boston and LA. Each 826 is housed in a storefront that supports the program by selling merchandise related to a different “theme.” Chicago’s is spy-themed, New York’s schtick is superheros. Seattle’s is space travel, hence the name of my post. All 826 programs are innovative, fun, and open up the world of writing to kids in wild and wonderful ways.
At a recent volunteer orientation session, there were 45 people attending, which is unheard of! Part of it is the economy (recent college grads delayed from entering the job market, or folks between jobs) but there were also people there who had full-time jobs and were just looking to give back to their community—everything from cancer researchers to linguists and actors.
Last fall, I basically helped out at the after school tutoring sessions that are open to any kids on a drop-in basis. I helped with reading and writing, but there were volunteers there tutoring kids in math and science too.Three weeks ago, I started a year-long stint with four other volunteers helping out at a local Seattle K-8 elementary school. We spend one morning a week assisting two third-grade teachers with their writing curriculum in whatever ways they need help. The kids are eager, reponsive and pretty darn good writers. This week, we planned a Halloween writing lesson…I’ll let you know how it goes.