Reach Incorporated, a program that hires teenagers to be elementary school reading tutors, will release four children’s books written by local high school students on Thursday.
The books were written by teams of three teenagers, all of which included students from Eastern High School. They will be officially released at a book launch party from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Pepco Edison Place Gallery at 702 8th St. NW. The four new titles will bring the total number of books created through the program to 13.
Reach Incorporated Executive Director Mark Hecker said that the books have all been popular among the elementary students in the tutoring program.
Hecker attributes some of that success to the fact that the teenagers can tell stories that local elementary school students can relate to, but which are not often the subjects of children’s books. Past topics have been growing up in a shelter and dealing with the death of parents.
“Our teenagers are willing to dig into issues that generally don’t get broached in children’s literature,” Hecker said. “But they are issues that the kids we work with deal with all the time.”
Hecker said the tutoring program currently reaches about 125 elementary school students throughout the District, including several students at Payne Elementary School in Hill East. This year, Reach Incorporated won the National Book Foundation’s Innovations in Reading Prize for its tutoring program.
The groups of teens spent about six weeks writing the books over the summer. Hecker said that although Reach Incorporated emphasizes the need for more diverse characters in children’s literature, the stories are entirely created by the high school students.
“The teenagers become very thoughtful about not only what story they want to tell, but how they want people to connect to the book,” he said.
Reach Incorporated also holds book readings at elementary schools, where students get a chance to meet the authors.
“In many cases, we set up the readings at the authors’ former elementary schools and kids ask questions about writing books too,” Hecker said. “It gives them something to aspire to in a really cool way.”
Hecker said he also hopes the readings and books help change perceptions of teenagers in the area.
“There’s a lot of media attention given to teenagers in this town but it’s mostly negative,” he said. “A lot of people really appreciate that our teens are out there giving back to their community.”
Tickets for the book launch party are available online in addition to opportunities to donate copies of the books to local elementary schools.
Photo via Facebook/ Reach, Inc.