Monday, March 31, 2008

Pirates, Publishing, and and Literacy

What do pirates supply stores and tutoring programs have in common? Everything

I happened upon TED talks early this year. TED in its original form stood for Technology, Entertainment, and Design and held a yearly conference to bring people from these fields together. Since its inception in 1984 it has developed into a conference where there are 50 presenters from a variety of fields with "ideas worth spreading". The TED Prize is given to three 'exceptional individuals' who get$100,000 to further their "One Wish To Change The World".

You are probably wondering what this has to do with education, and further, what this has to do with pirate supply stores. Well, this morning I was watching some TED talks on my video i-pod as my train took me to work. I downloaded one by David Eggers because the word 'tutoring' had popped up in its description. I soon realized that David Eggers is the founder of McSweeney's (a fun website and publishing company, and I swear this is going somewhere).

Imagine a room filled with pirate supplies. Eye patches in every color, maps, parrot food, and all the necessities for sailing the seven seas are right in the mist of a tutoring center for local school children. Yes, that is just what Eggers did at 826 Valencia. Him, the McSweeney's staff, and soon a band of volunteers were helping children with their homework and then with their own writing. the center started to be used for field trips and even published some of the children's work. More of these centers started to pop up. A superhero supply store in Brooklyn, a spy store in Chicago, and many more. 826 National is the over arching non-profit and I am amazed at what they have become. Beyond tutoring the children they publish the children's work, have scholarships, and foster the growth and potential of so many children who might have been over looked. Part of the philosophy is one on one attention for each child and with that kind of tutoring no wonder the idea has taken off.

Let's get back to that TED Wish Eggers had to make...

"I wish that you - you personally and every creative individual and organization you know - will find a way to directly engage with a public school in your area and that you'll then tell the story of how you got involved, so that within one year we have 1,000 examples of innovative public-private partnerships."

So far there are 28 and if you read this want to know how to get involved (and for more information) visit Once Upon A School. This project is truly an inspiration and it is just this kind of innovative thinking that inspires me as I am about to take a giant leap into the real world. Also, who could say no to a pirate supply store.

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