This is a guest post from Jeungmin Kim, who visited 826DC from South Korea!
Making Writing Magical
Think about your experience of writing when you were young. It was probably connected to academic performance through homework assignments like daily journals, written portions on tests, or participation in after school writing classes. Such experiences have led many to think about writing as difficult, stressful, or only for people who are “good at” it.
I certainly felt that way.
Whenever I was asked to write anything personal, I would feel anxious. I didn’t feel like a writer. I saw writing as a noble vocation—only a handful of chosen people, I thought, could create amazing stories worth sharing with readers.
What if, instead of just focusing on performance, we approached writing as a way to freely express our thoughts and to easily communicate with others?
826DC is a place where young people can do that. 826DC, and each of their fellow chapters in the 826 National network, encourages young people to freely their creative potential and to enjoy expressing themselves through writing.
Today, DC students have a free place where they can go after school and share what they’ve created, where adults with caring hearts and listening ears are excited to know about their stories, and where they and their friends can become published authors!
A Space for Stories
I currently work for a venture philanthropy firm, C Program, based in Seoul, South Korea. My team does a lot of work with projects related to play, education, and young people’s creativity and confidence, so I just had to check out the 826 network! I visited 826DC, exploring both their writing center and their storefront, with the help of lovely staff members.
All nine 826 chapters have a writing center hidden within a playful storefront, each with a different theme. Another chapter, 826NYC, for example, is fronted by the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company, where you can buy all sorts of must-have superhero items.
826DC runs Tivoli’s Astounding Magic Supply Company. It is filled with delightful items for magicians of all ages—everything from white gloves and top hats to cards and magic coins. Don’t forget to check out their super-cute stuffed rabbits, aka Magician’s Assistants! Time flies in this little store.
The best part? A bookshelf in the store swings open like a door, revealing 826DC’s writing center. Already at ease and full of wonder from the store, young people can step through into a magical world of storytelling.
Spaces like these make writing fun, giving young people a safe place for whimsy, wonder, and imagination. They’re also an opportunity for the community to get involved, exploring the site and donating to 826DC through every purchase. The income from store sales support all of 826DC’s writing and publishing programs, keeping them 100% free.
What Our Purchases Support
826DC has six major programs: the Young Authors’ Book Project, After-School Writing Lab, Field Trips, Workshops, Reading All-Stars, and In-Schools. You can learn more about them here.
They are all volunteer-supported by a diverse network of volunteers—college students, illustrators, editors, journalists, and more—with experience in all sorts of areas, like robotics, education, comics, or environmental justice.
Each program is designed to help students build both their writing skills and their confidence, and operate on flexible lesson plans, adapting to the specific needs and interests of each classroom, teacher, and student.
Astounded and Inspired
Places like 826DC make me feel more excited for the future, both for myself and for young people. I’ve been working on how to build a similar space back home—more details to come, but a Korean version of an 826 storytelling space will open in April this year! With no doubt, my 826DC visit was a major source of inspiration.
Together, we’re making a world where everyone can become an artist, where everyone can freely express their stories, and where everyone can find joy in writing.
To me, that sounds pretty magical.