One of the best things about creating content for Moomah the Magazine, is that we get to approach learning through exploration, beauty, humor and curiosity. When developing stories, we take into consideration not only what parents are looking for, but also what children respond to. We are constantly making an effort to push our own creative minds, staying as silly and whimsical as our young readers.
When I lived in San Francisco 10 years ago, I stumbled upon 826 Valencia. It was evening, shops were mostly closed, and I passed by this warm, glowing storefront that looked like it could have been there forever. I took a second look, noticing that the windows were filled with all sorts of dusty, authentic, perfectly cluttered nautical props. Inside, I saw the amazing author, Dave Eggers standing amongst jars of treasure and fisherman’s ropes. He was surrounded by kids of all ages, running around and digging through treasure chests, while pirate hooks were hanging from the ceiling. I went home and did my research, only to learn that 826 Valencia was more of a magical place then I ever would have imagined.
Founded by author Dave Eggers and Nínive Calegari in 2002, 826 National approaches learning with the belief that “strong writing skills are fundamental to future success and that great leaps in learning can happen when trained tutors work one-on-one with students.”
With schools aching from overburdened teachers and students desperately in need of more specialized tutoring, 826 was designed to fill a niche that no other organization could. It offers excellent free tutoring and writing workshops for those who either can’t afford it, or need additional assistance that is unavailable to them through the educational system due to budget cuts. The partners found their center’s location in the Mission District of San Francisco, at 826 Valencia. But with the location came a little problem: the space was zoned for retail, not for a school or center. Thus, the Pirate Store was born.
Though the retail space was not their original intention, the Pirate Store provides all that is needed as a storefront in order to execute the real magic that happens out the back. The genuinely funny and imaginative approach speaks to the language of young creative kids and provides a warm and creative environment to struggling students looking for support. The space is a place where kids can “take ownership over the writing process, and strengthen their ability to express themselves clearly and in their own voice. By making writing fun, by demystifying the process, and by creating gorgeous books, magazines, and newspapers that honor their work, young people are inspired to gain critical experience and write with confidence.”
Today, the Pirate Store is not only San Francisco's leading pirate supply store, but it is also successful enough to have it's income pay for the rent of the entire center!
Word of 826 Valencia and the Pirate Store spread like wildfire not long after it’s opening, and has since become a great success. With classes and workshops run by volunteers - published authors, magazine founders, teachers, and filmmakers – the students in attendance gain not only a fantastic education, but also an extraordinary life experience.
At Moomah we love spreading the stories of like-minded people and organizations, and 826 National is just that. The funny, esoteric approach that the non-profit takes, fills a niche for young writers and storytellers that has never been attempted before. It’s been wonderful watching such an inspired, sensitive organization evolve from a neighborhood oasis, to a national movement.
Today, with eight chapters all over the county, 826 National is serving over 31,000+ students a year. They run field trips, work on in-school projects to help classroom teachers, set up writer’s rooms in middle schools for more in depth writing projects, and so much more. They also run a college readiness program encompassing SAT and personal statement writing workshops, college scholarships and support, and college writing events in school classrooms across the city. They even send volunteers into classrooms to support teachers with their dream projects. “Whether students are composing sonnets, researching for term papers, or mastering verb conjugations, 826 tutors are available to sit side-by-side with them and lend a hand to dramatically lower the student-to-teacher ratio.”
Inspired by the success of 826 Valencia, seven more chapters have opened in cities across the country: New York, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Seattle, Los Angeles, Boston, and Washington, D.C. and all of them have their own imaginative storefronts: