826-valencia.jpgWhat if you wanted to help kids transform their reading and writing experience? Dave Eggers did this by moving his magazine staff of editors and writers inside a tutoring center to give kids one-on-one attention amidst the whimsical environment of a Pirate Supply Store. An amazing adventure was created that shapes the life of every young person who enters. The intention for this new kind of learning experience in San Francisco became a place called 826 Valencia, but today, a handful of similar tutoring centers have begun in New York (behind the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store), in Los Angeles (behind the Echo Time Travel Mart — a sort of 7/11 for time travelers), and other cities where creative adults give time and devotion to kids and their words.

Dave’s tutoring center transforms the lives of children who once were struggling at below-average reading and writing levels, turning these same children into authors of their own ideas and inspiration.

Studies have shown that tutors can boost a student’s grade-level by a full grade with just 45 to 50 hours of one-on-one attention, but Eggers goes a step further. He makes homework time not just a chore, but a time when kids’ ideas are given center stage with serious attention.

826 Valencia has expanded to a family of seven nonprofit satellite organizations dedicated to helping students, ages 6-18, with expository and creative writing at seven locations across the country, including Ann Arbor, Seattle, Boston and Chicago.

Eggers has also co-founded a foundation that builds schools in Southern Sudan. He won a 2008 TED Prize for his work, which comes with $100,000 and the chance to make your wish come true. Dave wishes to gather 1000 stories of transformation in public schools through individuals who volunteer or make a difference in some creative way, hoping to inspire others to help the public schools and teachers. He set up a website that will bring his wish to fruition at http://onceuponaschool.org.

Below is a video of Dave Eggers at the 2008 TED conference talking about his tutoring centers and Once Upon a School. Many laughs during his slide show will inspire us all.

(Thanks to Tosho Bailey for submitting the idea and initiative for this story!)


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