Today’s blog is a guest post written by Lana Wong, Community Impact & Partnerships Director at Shout Mouse Press
If children don’t read about people who look like them … they feel invisible. I feel this is an opportunity for them to see that they’re visible and their voice does count—not just me telling them because I am their teacher but somebody else telling them. Someone else showing them it’s true.”
– DC Public Schools fifth-grade teacher Cesarina Pierre, speaking about the impact of a Shout Mouse Press author visit
Everyone has important stories to tell and the ability to tell them. But many critical stories aren’t actually heard because people lack the tools, access, and opportunity. For the past five years, we’ve been working hard to give young people from marginalized communities the power and the platform to tell their own stories.
Shout Mouse Press is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that empowers youth from marginalized communities to tell their stories and—as published authors—to act as agents of change. In partnership with other nonprofits, Shout Mouse is building a catalog of books that tackle issues of race, identity, immigration, social justice, and more. Our youth authors have produced children’s books, comics, novels, memoirs, and poetry collections that affirm the vulnerable and increase understanding of their perspectives.
We are thrilled to be a First Book partner given our shared missions to provide inclusive, high-quality educational resources for underserved communities that reflect their realities and voices.
Four Shout Mouse titles are currently available on the First Book Marketplace:
Immigration Stories, from Youth Perspectives
“Voces Sin Fronteras”—a collaboration with 16 immigrant youth from the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC)—is a bilingual collection of memoirs in comic form. Personal narratives about family, loss, ambition, and change provide a first-person perspective on the immigration crisis. With a foreword by Newbery Medal winner Meg Medina, the book earned a starred review in School Library Journal and won the 2019 “In the Margins” Top Nonfiction award.
The authors have spoken at schools and events across the D.C. area, donated hundreds of copies of their book to children in immigration custody and—through book sales and related contributions—raised more than $30,000 in scholarship money for immigrant youth. As one author, April, explains: “What we want most [for this book] is that those who have experienced the same pain know that they are not alone.”
Teens Address #BlackLivesMatter
In 2015, following the senseless deaths of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and many others, ten black teenage girls began a novel about race and police brutality. For two years, they spent Friday afternoons writing about the shooting of an unarmed 16-year-old black boy by a white police officer and the impact it has on the community. Each writer put herself in the shoes of one of ten characters—including the victim, the police officer, the witness, the mother, the friend—and explored different perspectives of this tragic event.
“The Day Tajon Got Shot” is in every D.C. public school and more than 3,000 schools, libraries, and homes nationwide. A recipient of both the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year 2018 (Young Author) and “In the Margins” Top Fiction award, Tajon was named one of the top 10 books to read after Angie Thomas’ acclaimed “The Hate U Give” by School Library Journal. Recently the D.C. City Council recognized the teen authors with an official commendation for “their commitment to using their voice to contribute to a national dialogue and to act as leaders in their community.”
Everyone has a story. Everyone has something to say. And everyone has a life worth living.– Lawrencia Odoms, teen author published by Shout Mouse Press
Our Lives Matter
The “Our Lives Matter” book was born during the course of a historic year of civil unrest and the emergence of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Thirty teens from Ballou High School in Washington, D.C. decided to add their voices to the national conversation about race, inequality, violence, and justice. Through their moving personal stories, these writers strive to change the narrative about youth of color. Their essays can be used not only as initiators of dialogue about race, class, and justice but also as examples of powerful personal statements for college and scholarship applications. As teen author Lawrencia Odoms writes, “Everyone has a story. Everyone has something to say. And everyone has a life worth living.”
Ed. note: “Our Lives Matter” is very popular among our First Book community of educators & is currently out of stock on the First Book Marketplace! We’ll update this blog with hyperlinks to the title once it has been restocked!
Poetry from Prison
“The Untold Story of the Real Me” is a collection of poetry written by incarcerated youth who are members of the Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop. Their raw voices explore parenthood, love, pain, identity, race, and freedom. This collection also features personal profiles of Free Minds members who are home from prison and serve as Poet Ambassadors in a violence-prevention initiative. Used in classrooms across the country, this book is a powerful tool to help kick-start conversations around youth violence and the criminal justice system.
Shout Mouse aims to not only amplify unheard voices through books but also empower young people to be speakers and leaders of change in their communities. Litzi, co-author of four Shout Mouse books, said it best:
“I realized that my story impacted everyone I came across. To have college students and professors admiring me … shows that despite my age, I’m teaching those older than me that everyone’s story matters.”
I realized that my story impacted everyone I came across. To have college students and professors admiring me … shows that despite my age, I’m teaching those older than me that everyone’s story matters.– Litzi, teen author published by Shout Mouse Press
Our mission at Shout Mouse Press is to amplify these unheard voices, and we are grateful that the First Book Marketplace helps to get these teen-authored books into the hands of young people who need these stories most. With this powerful partnership, our books are able to reach so many new students, families, and communities across the country. Thank you, First Book, for championing this #OwnVoicesstorytelling that engages, affirms, and inspires.
Shout Mouse Press will soon release “I Am the Night Sky,” a collection of creative responses about being young and Muslim in today’s America, produced in partnership with ten Muslim American teens from the Next Wave Muslim Initiative (NWMI). Look for it on the First Book Marketplace this summer!
Lana Wong is the Community Impact & Partnerships Director at Shout Mouse Press. Over twenty years ago, she founded the Shootback Project in Nairobi, Kenya which continues to this day.