At exactly 5 p.m. on October 18th I hustled out of my office so I could get across town in time to attend a reading. Most of the readings I go to start much later in the evening, but this was a particularly special occasion because the featured authors were children celebrating the release of 826CHI’s Compendium Volume 5.
826CHI is a non-profit organization in Wicker Park that provides free after-school tutoring, weekend writing workshops, in-schools tutoring, and help for English language learners. In addition to all the free classes and tutoring, 826CHI publishes student work. And every two years they release an anthology of the very best student writing.
This particular volume is organized chronologically by age—beginning with stories from 1st graders and ending with high school seniors. It features four introductions by partner educators. In this particular collection you will find a lion “as loud as a pencil sharpener,” witness a family’s journey toward American citizenship, live vicariously at a Chance the Rapper show, experience the dramatic sabotage of a 5th grade science project, and get a closer look at the struggles and triumphs of teen parenthood.
Listening to the stories at the release party and flipping through my copy of the Compendium, I am struck by the realization that I have forgotten what life is like uninhibited by the parameters of reality. With this realization, it is clear that despite a loose understanding of what is likely to happen, children see more than we think they do. The first reader at the compendium release party read a poem that listed pieces of advice for married people. One particular line stuck with me– “Don’t pretend to act taller than your husband.” It perfectly encapsulated respect in a relationship and the delicacy of masculinity and pride. The young poet didn’t write don’t be taller, but instead she said don’t act taller and don’t pretend. As if to say, try not to emasculate your husband.
Here are a few other great quotes from the compendium…
“I still remember when my dad and I used to sit down at our old brown and squeaky dinner table every night. We’d have a big bowl of cinnamon cereal and talk about our day or simply sit in complete silence. Either way we were both happy.” — Jocelyn D, grade 10
“Sweet Jam was a friendly M&M, but everyone thought he was jelly bean. He slept on clouds of all kinds. No one got to tell him what to do because he was the only M&M superhero in the world.” — Julian H, grade 2
Compendium Volume V is available for purchase at the Secret Agent Supply at 1276 N Milwaukee Ave.