In another instance of teenagers being wonderful, D.C. teens have partnered with publisher Shout Mouse Press and literacy tutoring program Reach Incorporated to create children’s books that respond to this year’s high-profile incidents of police brutality.
In the last seven years, more than 80 teens have enrolled in Shout Mouse Press and Reach Incorporated’s collaborative literacy program, a five-week summer program where Reach teens work with story coaches, illustrators, and a historian to create a children’s book from pitch to publication. This dovetails with Reach’s traditional program: during the school year, Reach recruits, trains, and hires teens facing social and academic challenges to tutor second-graders struggling with reading, resulting in improved literacy for both students and tutors.
Shout Mouse has already published over 30 books by young authors enrolled in Reach—but this year, the subject matter was particularly targeted. Said Kathy Crutcher, founder of Shout Mouse, “[In May,] eight-year-olds all over the country were witnessing the horrific murder of George Floyd. They were learning about Breonna Taylor . . . so we gotta address that.”
Books written through Reach this year include Breonna Marches Through Time, by Daveena Kenny, Shatyia Givens, Jocktavious Montford, and Geralyn Hooks, which follows an eight-year-old time traveler named Breonna who, upon seeing her once-vibrant D.C. neighborhood angered by police violence, travels back in time to meet civil rights youth activists like Marilyn Luper Hildreth; and And Justice For Who?, by Emilie Kpadea, Japan Spells, and Damarco Taylor, which tells the story of two close friends in the wake of George Floyd’s death who disagree with each other about policing and begin to think about whether police brutality stems from individual officers or the institution of police.
Crutcher noted that some parents questioned whether these subjects were appropriate for children’s books, but Shout Mouse and Reach believe their collaboration is meant to show kids they aren’t alone in moments of hardship and struggle. Said Kpadea, co-author of And Justice For Who?, “[These books] will help [young readers] to just be safe and understand, not to scare them about the world, but to understand how the world is. So whenever something like this happens, they won’t be surprised.”