Helping Kids Find Their Voices as Writers

How does a child find their voice? How are they given the skills and the freedom to express the world they experience?

I have worked with a public school in Harlem, PS 123, for about a decade now, and have recently started a new project with them focused on “student voice.” The goal is to bring in writers, artists, photographers and other creative professionals to show kids unique ways to find and express their voices.

When I first thought of this series, one person came to mind immediately as a guest speaker: Rachel Fershleiser. She does literary and nonprofit outreach at Tumblr, is the co-creator of Six-Word Memoirs, and helped create hundreds of events at Housing Works Bookstore in NYC. Rachel is just freaking amazing.

This week, Rachel came up to PS 123 and helped a group of fifth graders learn how to write their own six-word memoirs. The results were powerful, and represent the tip of the iceberg of who these kids are and what they can create in the world:

What most blows me away by this is that this was created within 45 minutes. Imagine if these kids kept writing, kept honing their ability to share and create.

A Tumblr was created to publish the students’ work, again representing the nearly immediate way that someone can not just express their voice, but share it with the world:

Here is a look at the workshop:

I would like to thank Rachel for being so generous of her time, it’s not an easy thing to work with a group of 5th graders and help them create something special within a single hour!

I would also like to thank Sarah Chesson from PENCIL, a nonprofit that helps coordinate partnerships like the one I have with PS 123. And of course: THANK YOU to the faculty (esp Principal Hernandez, Ms. Stewart and Ms. Mann), students and community of PS 123 who allowed us to be a very small part of their lives.

My partnership with PS 123 started years ago, and I often wonder where these students are now, what they may be doing, and of course, if they are writing: