Writing has the power to unlock doors within ourselves and doors to the world around us. Take a journey with us into the wonderful worlds discovered by the young writers in 826 National’s newest student books, A Place Worth Being: Explorations by Young Writers and The Beast: A Collection of Poems by Young Writers.
Written by students across the country, the short stories, personal essays, and poems in these pages will enchant you to see the world in a new way. From a bumpy road in Jalisco, Mexico to a place filled with “butterflies and dragonflies for as far as the eye can see,” these words from young writers will inspire you to slow down and connect with the places and creatures around you, and within yourself.
In A Place Worth Being, young writers examine and reflect on the expansive worlds and spaces they live in and carry within themselves.
Started in 2020, the project began when bestselling author and poet Jason Reynolds’ asked “If you were a place, what would you consist of?” through his video, For Every One. This question led to hundreds of student submissions from all over the country, including those part of the 826 Network and from our 826 Digital educator partners.
Each submission was carefully reviewed by 826 National’s inaugural Student Editorial Board, a group of 19 students grades 7-12, and 826 staff members Cristeta Boarini (826 MSP) and Nakia Hill (826 Boston). Every member of the Student Editorial Board also contributed writing to the anthology.
In the foreword, Student Editorial Board reflected on the significance of the prompt:
We were asked to describe ourselves as a place, or a place as a person. The simplicity of this prompt allowed for vulnerability and versatility from the many authors that came across it. The lack of limitations around what we could do and how we could think sparked passion in us. The freedom to reflect and dream with one prompt was enough to birth beautiful pieces that encompassed the prompt wholeheartedly. Without intending to, the prompt invited so many identities and truths. This book became a quilt of mismatched pieces that are just right for one another.
In the poetry anthology The Beast: A Collection of Poetry by Young Writers, students continue to explore their identity, but this time through their relationship with animals.
Created in collaboration with Ada Limón, the 24th Poet Laureate of the United States, The Beast started as a writing prompt from Ada first shared in826NYC’s quaranTeen voices program:
So many of us are connected to certain animals. We see a bird everyday and think that we have a connection with that bird. Or a dog or a cat, or even something smaller like a bee or a mouse. Paying attention to animals that are around us or that we feel connected to even if we don’t see them on a daily basis, is a good way to remember that we are animals too.
Ada’s prompt inspired hundreds of students from across the country to send in original poems about beloved family pets, mythical beasts from storybooks, and local creatures resting outside our window. Foreword author and 2023 National Youth Poet Laureate finalist Charlotte Yeung describes the student poems as the following:
With openness and thoughtfulness, these poets explore the interconnectedness between animals and themselves. Their poems illuminate layered, thoughtful observations about life, and are so striking and inspiring, they make my fingers itch for a pen.
A Place Worth Being and The Beast are powerful representations of how young people view the world we live in and the world as it could be. Through their eyes and imagination, our future world feels brighter, more inclusive, and a little more magical.