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Students Spill Ink and  Raise Literacy

Young Writers Find Their Voice Through Creating Published Works

April 2018 - There is currently a literacy crises occurring in Sacramento, especially in low-income and under-served areas. According to 2016 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) standardized test results, over half (between 54 percent and 62 percent) of students in 3rd through 8th grade did not meet the achievement standard in English Language Arts and Literacy. Approximately two-thirds (between 65 percent and 74 percent) of economically disadvantaged students in this age range did not meet the standard. This is particularly frightening considering literacy is one of the most important indicators of life outcomes. 56 percent of prison inmates score in the lowest two levels of literacy, and almost half of adults with low literacy live in poverty. By teaching young Sacramentans not just to read and write, but to love reading and writing, we are setting them up for a more prosperous and successful life as engaged and empowered citizens.

Often, the most direct impact we see in 916 Ink programming isn't the improved literacy or love for words, but is the growth in students' confidence and belief in their own abilities. An example of this comes from Maria, the Wordslinger at our recent program at Luther Burbank High School, who was thrilled with the growth of one student in particular, Alexander:

"With over 130 students, my time at Luther Burbank was spent trying to get to know as many students as I could within eight days. It was a daunting task, but I tried. The students who stick out tend to sometimes do so for better or for worse, but there was one student who was near the fringes: never disruptively off task but never openly engaged. Alexander set the tone for our relationship when he wrote “Bob” on his name tag instead of his own name. He was quiet, but he obviously had jokes. While he would occasionally engage in off task behavior with his neighbors, whenever I spoke, or whenever a poem was read, I could see he was paying attention. Then, one day, while his fellow students were writing, he raised his hand and gave me a piece of binder paper. “This is the first poem I’ve ever written,” he said. It was a stunning piece about his father that came from the “Burst Poem” prompt where we brainstormed responses to sentence starters such as “I learned,” or “I regret.” Alexander went on to write more poetry and when I approached him about submitting to the manuscript, he was hesitant at first. “I never thought I could write a poem.”

Well, it turns out, he not only wrote them, but published them as well. Alexander was a surprise. He was a student who observed from the side and decided to come in and take a chance, something we encourage at 916 Ink. In the end, he discovered something about himself: his ability to create, and the value of his voice. It was an amazing moment when, after the announcement of 916 Ink’s upcoming mural project opportunity with Indigo Moor, Alexander was the first student in his class period to walk up and sign the interest form. Alexander exemplifies the transformative power of our program. Even though eight one hour sessions may not seem like a long time, it was enough for Alexander to realize that writing just might be something that’s for him."

In the six years that 916 Ink has served the greater Sacramento region, we have published over 3000 youth authors in nearly 100 professionally bound anthologies. In the past two years 916 Ink has seen a massive growth in both the demand and funding for our creative and innovative form of literacy education. In 2017 alone, 916 Ink held 30 full length programs and 30 one-day field trips in which we published 803 Sacramento children in 27 published books.

916 Ink will soon celebrate the publication of it's 100th book of student writing with the special, "Ink: An Anthology," a collection of some of the most impactful pieces of student work from our 99 previous books.

For more information and to learn how to support 916 Ink please visit:


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