Unlocking Imagination Through Writing

23 Jun 2016 | Anne Wintroub and Gerald Richards

Tagged: Collaborators & Supporters, Aspire Mentoring Academy, Possibilities, Aspire,

Remember the first time you put pen to paper as a kid to write your first story? It was a world of endless possibility, defined only by your imagination. Flying cars, dogs in suits, chocolate planets -- you could create any world you wanted.

For too many young people, opportunities for creative freedom are few and far between. And for many adults, it’s a very distant memory. It shouldn’t be. Writing connects us, uniquely, to people and to our world. And writing skills are imperative for success in school and the workplace.  That’s why AT&T, through its Aspire initiative, is proud to support 826 National, renowned for its original, whimsical approach to teaching writing. This year, AT&T is contributing $50,000 and employees are volunteering their time to support one of the organization’s core publishing programs for youth: the Young Authors’ Book Project.

In this project, 826 staff partner with local classrooms to engage students in the full range of the publication process: from first drafts through the revision process, selecting the cover art, editing and developing the table of contents, and finally celebrating the publication at a book release event. Throughout the process, students are supported by mentors from 826’s volunteer corps, including local AT&T employees.

The majority of 826 students are from historically underserved, low-income populations. In 2014-15, 81% of students from Young Authors’ Book Project partner schools qualified for free or reduced price lunch, and nearly 40% of students identified as ESL learners (English as a Second Language).

The project provides students an opportunity to explore creativity and self-expression, while developing writing skills necessary for academic success. Students become more confident in their writing, improve their vocabulary and composition abilities, and build important social-emotional skills like learning to ask for help or how to persevere through a difficult task.

This year the Young Authors’ Book Project spans a wide range of topics at several 826 chapters:

826CHI’s The Monster Gasped, OMG!: Fifth grade students from Brentano Math and Science Academy created stories of monsters, creatures, and myths, paired with local, professional artists to create illustrations of their creatures to accompany each story.

826NYC’s Bright Blue Sky and Gray Silence: 826NYC teamed up with five classes of 10th & 11th graders from The High School of Fashion Industries to write personal narratives with the guiding theme, “Place and How it Shapes Us.”

826 Valencia’s Walk the Earth in Our Shoes & Plant Some Seeds Behind You: This thoughtful book seamlessly integrates biology with creative writing in this collection of essays about human impact on ecosystems, penned by students at John O'Connell High School.

We’re also looking forward to a publication from 826DC in the fall!


About the Author

Anne Wintroub and Gerald Richards


Gerald Richards is the CEO of 826 National. Winner of NewsCorp’s 2016 Murdoch Community Hero Award, he has more than twenty years of management and development experience at national nonprofit organizations. Gerald has a BA in Film Studies from Wesleyan University and an MFA in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. 

Anne Wintroub is a Director of Social Innovation at AT&T. She is located in San Francisco.

comments powered by Disqus