Things to Read - Four Children's Books Written By DC High School Students

Hill Center Reading
(A photo of some of the books' teenage authors.)

Lately, I've been getting lots of "junk" blog-related email, asking (approximately) "could you please write a free exclusive blog post for our for-profit organization? For your time, you will get nothing whatsover." Ugh.

Luckily, every once in awhile, a wonderful reader email appears in my inbox.

A few weeks ago, a reader reached out to me about a program called Reach Incorporated that launched in 2010 to combat DC's literacy crisis (85% of DC public school students enter 9th grade below grade level). Through the Reach program teachers train high school students to become paid tutors for grade school kids. Sounds pretty great, right?

Even better, through its summer program, Reach works with DC high school students to author children's books. (Did you know that only 3% of children’s books feature characters of color, and only 1.8% of children’s books are written by authors of color? Pretty sad statistic.). For the book program, Reach split teens into groups of 3-4 students and paired each team with a Reach staff member and an illustrator to help craft and write the story. Four wonderful children's books resulted from their efforts.

Reach Incorporated sent us review copies of all four books (which are available for purchase here) and both the kids and I were pretty impressed, especially since each book involves some sort of lesson or moral that works great for the 2nd/3rd grade crowd (though T loved them too, so the age range is pretty flexible). Our reviews are below:


The Airplane Effect
This was probably my favorite of the books, it involves a boy going through chemo meeting a new friend. And I really like how the authors tackled a hard to talk about topic, while still creating a story that was upbeat enough for young children.

T [age 4.5] - It was good, the story made me think about watching TV all the time, but that TV must get boring at the hospital. Maybe they don't have Rescue Bots? I also really liked the dances! Can you read it again please?

me - Um, we have three more to review, how about another book?

T [age 4.5] - But this one is SO GOOD!


The Gloomy Light
This was the most bizarre of the books as it involved a llama/frog friendship, aliens, and a new baby. Truthfully, it seemed somewhat random, but the kids really liked it. So these high school authors obviously "get" what 2nd graders want.

P [age 7] - I liked it, lots of my stories have aliens too. I wish I could have read more about the llama's adventures in space.


This book involves a boy who feels like an outsider, so he comes up with a plan to break up a trio of three popular best friends by creating contests that have them all compete against each other. Luckily, his plan fails. And in the end everyone becomes friends.

F [age 8] - It was really good. It begins with a guy who is lonely, which everyone is sometimes, but then he realizes he has friends, he just didn't know it.

T [age 4.5] - I think it was good.

P [age 7] - I liked it. The cool boys were actually good guys.

T [age 4.5] - How did they get to have contests without asking grown-ups for permission?

P [age 7] - I liked the end when they all discover the truth at the end and all become friends.


One Lonely Camel
So this book involved a "rapping" camel trying to make friends at his new home, a zoo. It's pretty funny, in a good way.

P [age 7] - I liked how all the zoo animals had a story, but I wondered where the zookeepers were.

F [age 8] - I wish we had learned more about what happened to the camel's family, but all in all I liked it.

T [age 4.5] - I'm glad everyone became the camel's friend.

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