The holidays are fast approaching, and if your family is anything like mine then books are always on every gift list. But do the books on store shelves reflect the diversity of DC-area families? According to local nonprofit Reach Incorporated, just three percent of children’s books feature characters of color, and only 1.8 percent of children’s books are written by authors of color. This summer, 15 DC teens set out to change that – and became authors themselves.

Reach Incorporated develops confident grade-level readers and capable leaders by training teens to teach younger students, creating academic benefit for all involved. Over the summer, story coach Kathy Crutcher asked Reach’s teen tutors what they thought made a good children’s story. As the teens brainstormed ideas, they realized that they wanted to create stories the students they tutored could relate to – as well as stories that would engage them and foster a love of reading.


Some of Reach’s young authors in action

The teens spent approximately 25 hours over the summer working with writing coaches and illustrators from Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Art. They brainstormed plots, developed characters, wrote stories, workshopped ideas and revised drafts. Their hard work produced four stories written entirely by these talented teenagers:

The Airplane Effect: Vincent, undergoing chemotherapy at REACH Children’s Hospital, wants to be a kid again. Frustrated, he throws a paper airplane out the window. The plane’s journey helps Vincent rediscover his childhood.

Trio + 1: Bobby is jealous of his friends’ popularity, so he creates a way to bring them down. He creates the “Coolest Kid Competition”, turning these friends into adversaries. Who wins? Maybe, just maybe, they all do.

The Gloomy Light: When Sal, a llama, is kidnapped by aliens, his best friend Ernie, a frog, jumps into action. Themes of loyalty and friendship shine through in this international and intergalactic adventure as Ernie works to free his captured friend.

One Lonely Camel: Larry is the newest animal at the zoo. Nervous and scared, he finds a new friend in Tunechi, a friendly hippo. They share a love of music and rapping, but is Larry willing to share his talent or will stage fright silence him?

Each of these books is available for purchase now on Amazon.

Reach’s teen authors will be doing a reading and book signing on November 23 at the Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital. For more information or to register for this event, click here.

All photos courtesy of Reach Incorporated. None of the links above are affiliate links.


Allison writes about life at home in the Maryland suburbs at Home and Never Alone.