According to the 2007 “To Read or Not To Read” Executive Summary from the National Endowment for the Arts, 49% of employers rated writing skills as very important for newly hired employees who are high school graduates, however 72% of employers rate high school graduates as deficient in writing skills. In addition, remedial writing courses are estimated to cost more than $3.1 billion for large corporate employers and $221 million for state employers. Today’s organization is attempting to make a difference in the writing skills of America’s youth.
826 National is a non-profit organization with a mission based on the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success. The 826 National organization provides strategic leadership, administration, and other resources to ensure the success of its network of eight writing and tutoring centers across the United States.
826 centers are located in Ann Arbor, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington DC. Each center offers a variety of inventive programs that provide students age 6-18 with opportunities to explore their creativity and improve their writing skills. They also aim to help teachers get their classes excited about writing. In 2011, their writing centers served over 29,000 students.
The 826 organization was founded ten years ago by award winning author Dave Eggers along with educator Ninive Calegari. They started by opening the 826 Velencia in San Francisco’s Mission District. Their initial mission was to assist young people in the neighborhood who needed extra help after school with their homework and to assist these students with their writing skills. They aim to fill the gap as youth reading and writing skills continue to wane. Their programs include tutoring, writing workshops, field trips, and publishing projects. In 2011, the eight centers served 29,060 students, 849 teachers, completed 959 publishing projects, and conducted 646 field trips, 387 writing workshops, and 1,537 after-school tutoring hours.
Each center is unique because the students enter through a whimsically themed retail storefront. The San Francisco location sells supplies for the working pirate, in New York they sell superhero supplies, Los Angeles has a Time Travel Mart, and the Ann Arbor store fills your robot supply needs. You can see photos of each unique storefront here.
You can see a video about the 826 centers here:
How can you help?
Each of the centers are always looking for volunteers to help with after-school tutoring, leading educational Storytelling and Bookmaking workshops, in-school opportunities, and volunteer graphic designers. You can read more about their volunteer opportunities on their website.
You can also support the 826 National organization by shopping their online store that offers many unique gifts including their Emergency Novel-Finishing Kits; the Don’t Forget to Write collection, featuring over 100 creative writing lessons for elementary and secondary students; and 826 student publications, t-shirts, coffee mugs, snuggies, and tote bags.
You can also provide a monetary donation to the organization via their website.