Encourage a Young Writer Day: How To Share Your Love of Writing
Growing up, I was always the sibling in the other room reading a book or spending hours on end writing by myself. I had an inherent interest in the literary arts, and I was the kid who actually wanted to read the book assigned in English class. My siblings, on the other hand, moan and grown when it’s time to pick up a book or write a paper. This seems to be true for many children who often think of reading and writing as a chore instead of something fun to do, so it’s important to find new ways to expose children to reading and writing.
With my siblings, for example, I try to find books and articles that they’ll be interested in, or I’ll encourage them to write down a story they are really excited to tell me about. Whenever I’m visiting my family, I’ll ask if anyone else wants to read a book with me, and one of my sisters will usually join me. Last Christmas, I read The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, while my sister read the entire Divergent series by Veronica Roth.
We kept each other motivated by competing — who could finish the book or series first? She ended up beating me, but only by a few hours. My mom said she’d never seen my sister read for such a long period of time. Sometimes just suggesting something as simple as reading together can help spark an interest.
Today is Encourage a Young Writer Day, which is a day to celebrate writing and encourage a young writer to put a pen to paper. Reading is essential to become a well-versed writer, and both reading and writing can be done in a variety of ways: a physical book, with a tablet, with a pen and paper, with a stylus, with a keyboard, an online magazine, a newspaper, on your iPhone and more.
My sister, in reading the Divergent series, started out with a physical book for the first and second books, then switched to a Kindle for the third (my grandma borrowed the third book and hadn’t finished it yet).
Other than encouraging my siblings to read, I also started volunteering last year to encourage young students to write. When I was living in San Francisco, California, I used to walk by the Pirate Store, the storefront of 826 Valencia. Co-founders Nínive Calegari and Dave Eggers started the organization to help lessen teachers’ workloads by offering supplemental reading and writing programs for students. The various workshops are run by talented volunteers in the San Francisco community.
Even though I used to see the Pirate Store every day and I knew what 826 did, it wasn’t until last year that I finally inquired about volunteering. I was scared. Just because I like writing, could I really help a student write? Was I skilled enough to help a student write a short story? What if I didn’t know the answer, or I had to look up a word, or I didn’t have any good ideas to keep the student going? But then it hit me — volunteering at 826 was much more in line with my skills than anything else, so I might as well try it.
To sign up, you simply fill out a form on the website (the websites for all the locations are listed below). Yes, you have to find time in your schedule to attend one of the orientation sessions, but it is really fun to meet other people interested in volunteering. I showed up at my orientation only to find my roommate, who, unbeknownst to me, had also signed up.
In order to start volunteering in schools, you have to fill out an application and get a tuberculosis skin test (TB test). Each location has slightly different requirements, but the organization will walk you through the process and answer any questions you might have.
One day I finally signed up and showed up for a workshop, which was actually through a partner organization, also started by Dave Eggers, called Scholar Match. The session took place at 826 Valencia and was meant to help high school students brainstorm essay ideas for college applications. I was terrified that I would have nothing to contribute — I couldn’t even remember my own college essay.
The organizers sent out information about the workshop beforehand and emphasized that this was just a brainstorming session — nothing needed to be finalized. Once I entered the workshop, I was paired with a student and we dove right in. Brainstorming in pairs is amazing. Instead of hitting a dead end, the back-and-forth bouncing of ideas just inspires more ideas.
Before we knew it, we had filled a few pages with really interesting themes, details and anecdotes that the student could use in his essay. He was very enthusiastic about our brainstorm session, happily scribbling notes in his notebook. When it was over, he thanked me for helping him and said he never realized his life was so full of interesting things or how easy it would be to write his essay, which was something he had been dreading for a while.
I left the workshop thinking about how easy it was to help this student (simply sitting next to him seemed to encourage him) and how great it would’ve been if I had had an older mentor back in my college application days.
Soon thereafter, I volunteered at a nearby school and grew much more confident in my volunteering skills. Then, life happened and I moved to Washington, D.C.
Filling out a Volunteer Application for 826DC
Eager to find a similar volunteer experience, I started searching for organizations in D.C. and found 826DC, which is actually the D.C. counterpart of 826 Valencia. I’m proud to start volunteering in the D.C. area, and I’ll be sharing my experiences on this blog!
If you’re looking to encourage a young writer and volunteer today, check out these 826 locations:
Location: 826 Valencia St., San Francisco, CA 94110 (Mission)
Schools served: San Francisco Unified School District and Oakland Unified School District
Storefront: Pirate Supply Store
Volunteer info for 826 Valencia
Location: 3233 14th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20010 (Columbia Heights)
Schools served: D.C. Public Schools
Storefront: The Museum of Unnatural History
Volunteer info for 826DC
Locations: 12515 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90066 (Mar Vista) and 1714 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026 (Echo Park)
Phone: 310-915-0200 and 213-413-3388
Schools served: LA Unified School District
Storefront: Time Travel Mart
Volunteer info for 826LA
Location: 372 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11215 (Park Slope, Brooklyn)
Schools served: New York City Public Schools
Storefront: Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co.
Volunteer info for 826NYC
Location: 3035 Washington St., Roxbury, MA 02119 (Rockbury, Egleston Square)
Schools served: Boston Public Schools and greater Boston area school districts
Storefront: The Greater Boston Bigfoot Research Institute
Volunteer info for 826 Boston
Location: 8414 Greenwood Avenue North, Seattle, WA 98103 (Greenwood)
Schools served: Seattle Public School District and greater Seattle area school districts
Storefront: Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co.
Volunteer info for 826 Seattle
Location: 1331 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL 60622 (Wicker Park)
Schools served: Chicago Public Schools
Storefront: The Boring Store
Volunteer info for 826CHI
Location: 115 East Liberty St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104 (Ann Arbor)
Schools served: Ann Arbor Public Schools, Ypsilanti Public School District, Lincoln Consolidated Schools and Willow Run Community Schools
Storefront: Liberty Street Robot Supply and Repair Shop
Volunteer info for 826michigan
How have you encouraged a young writer? Do you have any suggestions on where to volunteer? Make a suggestion in the comments below!