A River of Books! The Biography of Water Spring Book Release

"If I were a grunion,
I would say, Here is! The Big Moment!"
- Solaris, NOCCS Student

Even with all the rain, children are worrying about water. Are we still in a drought? More importantly, they feel a giant responsibility to persuade adults to conserve and protect this most precious of all elements.

This spring, Chapter 510 was invited back to North Oakland Community Charter School (NOCCS) to write poems in response to water cycles, movements, and how we humans impact the health of water. Lead teachers Juliana Germak and Elisa Litsky launched their classroom study at our writing sanctuary with a field trip inspired by the grunion and its annual spawn on California beaches. Our field trips often have that creative spirit of frenzy.

Back at NOCCS, children became book rivers, little fish, contaminated oceans, ancient crow geysers, extreme stream dudes. They chanted Evaporation, Condensation, Precipitation with pride. They jumped into atomic costumes and formed a cotton candy cloud. Sounds of water gurgled from their mouths pshsh pshsh like rain... like a backward motion of you spitting water out.

Chapter 510 is committed to publishing youth poetry in English and other languages. Thanks to suggestions from NOCCS Dean of Instruction Cori Bellew, we publish this collection in English and Arabic.

Thank you to our amazing Arabic translator Zubaida Salman for helping us publish our first title with a full Arabic translation.

Anna Kingsley of Pickypockets Press has once again brought this book to life with her bookmaking magic to help us create the longest book we've ever made (over 12 feet long!). We were very fortunate to have Tova Ricardo, a wonderful young Oakland poet and activist, work with Chapter 510 on this project. Thank you to Tova and to Bentley High School for allowing her to spend her final month of high school inspiring others to write and be proud. A huge bouquet of love to Tammy Berdichevsky for her creative brilliance and dedication.

I can’t tell you what a nice surprise it was to see the Arabic versions of the poems so prominently featured. It’s the month of Ramadan right now and in general Arabs and many others need nice surprises given the broad anti-Muslim sentiments. For our family just seeing the Arabic felt very affirming.
— NOCCS Parent, Erica Mackie

This book was supported generously from the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth, Rogers Family Foundation, All Stars Helping Kids, Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, Panta Rhea, Barrios Trust, Bloom Press, Green Copy, and individuals.

An Epic (Poetry) Day of Writing at Acorn Woodland Elementary!


Friday, May 19, 2017

It started as all epic poems do, en medias res (in the middle of things). Oakland Poet Laureate & Chapter 510 high-school intern Tova Ricardo took the stage at Acorn Elementary's all-school assembly and read a beautiful poem in front of a rapt (albeit wiggly) student body.

Our fearless ED Janet Heller followed her in a grand announcement: that the students had only one hour to produce 11 Epic Poems in a never-been-done-before all-school poetry relay race! The Prime Minister of the Bureau of Far Off Ideas had demanded this epic feat, and she knew that the Acorn students were up for the challenge. 

Students immediately rushed off to their respective classrooms where they were greeted by Epic Poetry Teaching Artists and Epic Poetry Scribes equipped with official Epic Poetry Paper and tubes for efficient poetry transportation. 

Once students learned all they needed to know about epic poetry, en medias res, and all the ground rules sent by the Prime Minister (No Boring Poems!), they were off.

Hands shot in the air, ideas flew faster than Lamborghinis. There were princesses named Barney Watson Guzman, shape shifting shoes, chickens, magic spiders, delirious schemes, and epic journeys of all kinds.

Every ten minutes, students had to tube up and bid farewell to a poem and welcome a new poem into the room to continue the previous classroom's story from character creation to setting descriptions to embarking on journeys to overcoming great obstacles (and scary villains) all the way to "The End." The poems themselves took a Homeric journey, from home classroom back to home classroom! 

To say that this day was epic would be an understatement. You can read all poems written on this very day here or by stopping by our writing center where we have them framed and illustrated. 

Poem design by Justin Carder & Christine Pepperdine. Photos by Sergio Flores.

Special thanks to our lead poet Tova Ricardo & Epic Poets, Illustrators & Scribes Breena Nunez, Elizabeth Gould, Josephine White, Hannah Rubin, Katie Shwarz, Renica Powers, Tammy Berdichevsky, Claire Strings, Ruby Hwang, Lisa Kim, Roni Canieso, Talia Frank, Allison Ho, Janet Heller, Janice Edwards, Maya Martin, Scott Raynor & Perla Yasmeen Meléndez.  


Eight Youth Publications Approved by the Prime Minister this Spring!

This April and May, we invited eight classrooms from Acorn Woodland Elementary to come write stories at Chapter 510's writing center.  Students 1st grade through 4th came up with collaborative stories and wrote individual endings that were all original enough to impress our new and very grumpy Prime Minister of the Bureau of Far Off Ideas.

We could not believe this since none of the stories that we, the adult staff and volunteers (many of us trained writers with fancy degrees and agents and everything), deliver to her corner office ever get approved. 

But these students came in with ideas so far off and amazing, it was impossible for our PM to not fall in love with each and every one. I mean how could you not want to publish a book about a future Oakland threatened by a giant hamster!? Or a duck in major need of a makeover!? Or a magical, migrating, talking park!? Or a wolf and a dog on a long journey to Disneyland!? 

After the stories were approved and illustrated by volunteer artists, Chapter 510 published eight new titles and made over 200 original books. You can visit and even check out these titles including The Moonday Problem, The JC Penney Mistake, and our Spanish title Los Animales No Van a Disneylandia at the 81st Street Library where they are in official circulation.  

If you are an educator and would like to bring your classroom in to write a book with us in the fall or spring, register here, and we will work with you on a good time and date to come in. Please note that approval from the Prime Minister is not guaranteed, but what we can promise is that 1) your students will write a book 2) you will learn how a magical bureaucracy is made, and 3) you will leave knowing some very important Oakland history (Did you know about the Great Compromise of 2015? Didn't think so!). 

A big thank you goes out to our volunteers, teachers & chaperones for making our first round of field trips happen. We cannot wait to host many, many more. 

A very special thank you to Christine Pepperdine and Tammy Berdichevsky for the book design and making, and to Elizabeth Gould for helping at each and every field trip as our second classroom lead.  

Photo credit: Jon Sun of Studio Kibo & Christine Pepperdine

Illustrators featured: Talia Frank, Hannah Rubin, and Breena Nuñez

About Our Field Trips:

Chapter 510 Field Trips are collaborative storytelling and book writing sessions for local classrooms. Field trips take place on weekdays at our writing center, and each student leaves the trip with a book they have helped write and make.

Each group is tasked with creating an original story collectively, with the help of our volunteers and our elusive boss, the Prime Minister of the Bureau of Far Off Ideas.

How does it work? Students, along with their teachers and chaperones join us here at the writing center, where we collaboratively choose a setting, characters, and set up a journey. Together, we craft the beginning and middle of our story.

For the second half of the trip, each student is asked to create their own ending to the story. All the while, a volunteer illustrator works to bring the story to life through sketches.

The completed stories are sent to the very judgmental Prime Minister for approval. Stories that are creative, unique, and imaginative rough get the Prime Minister’s stamp of approval!

Each ending is then bound in an illustrated book with the complete story and sent to the school for each student to take home.

If you are interested in signing your classroom up for a free field trip this fall or spring, register here

Chapter 510 + 826 National = One Fantastic Future

This is an official announcement from the Division of Fantastic Futures within the Dept. of Make Believe:

Chapter 510 aspires to the 826 model and is officially participating in the 826 National chapter development process!

This will make for a fantastic future indeed, as we will be joining a network of seven youth writing centers just like ours located all over the country. Writing centers fronted by magical storefronts filled with burgeoning young writers and amazing, dedicated, like-minded folks with whom we can share our joys and struggles with for years to come.  

We are currently embarking on the first phase of many in the process of becoming an 826, so it will be a bit before we are officially official-official, but we are so happy and proud we're becoming a part of this growing family of educators, writers, and artists working to inspire youth across the country.

In the meantime, we will continue to work with and for our community, and with 826, to grow our programs and build our writing center here in Oakland. 

If you have any questions about this process, do feel free to email us anytime

About 826 National

826 National is a nonprofit organization that provides strategic leadership, administration, and other resources to ensure the success of its network of seven writing and tutoring centers.

826 National’s chapters offer a variety of inventive programs that provide under-resourced students, ages 6-18, with opportunities to explore their creativity and improve their writing skills.

Their mission is based on the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with individualized attention, and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success. They also aim to help teachers get their classes excited about writing.

For more information on 826 National, visit their website.

Please note: As a separate 501(c)3 working to bring 826 National network programming to Oakland, Chapter 510 is not directly affiliated with 826 Valencia and its operations.

510 Journal Release w/ Youth Poet Laureate Azariah Cole-Shephard

What an inspirational night! 

Thank you all for joining Chapter 510 for another successful First Friday event. We were thrilled to come together with Oakland Public Library and Youth Speaks to welcome our 2016 Youth Poet Laureate Azariah Cole-Shephard and celebrate the release of our sixth issue of 510 Journal.

Thanks to 2015 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate Tova Ricardo for hosting and our wonderful readers Azariah, Stephanie Yun, Aaron Godinez, Emily Kim, Shanga Labossiere, Isabel Hallock, and Sophie Elkin for nailing it!

About 510 Journal:

In partnership with the Oakland Public Library's Youth Poet Laureate program and Youth Speaks, we are proud to have published six issues (posters) of 510 Journal, each celebrating a young poet.

We've printed and distributed thousands of these 11" by 17" posters throughout Oakland.

Come by the center to pick up one or six to display in your business or residence to help us amplify student voices throughout town (and beyond!). 

About the Oakland Youth Poet Laureate Program:

Presented by Oakland Public Library and Youth Speaks, the Youth Poet Laureate program is supported by an alliance of community partners representing Oakland’s leading arts, education and community organizations.

Applications for Oakland's 2017 Youth Poet Laureate are now open!

Deadline to apply is February 5, 2017. 

Youthspeaks.org | oaklandlibrary.org/teens