Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “I am juicy, gooey, hot, cheesy and heaven in your mouth. What am I?” the teacher asked.
Hands shot in the air and 10 children bounced up and down in their seats. “Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!” they squealed.
The children, ages 8 to 12, were practicing giving their teacher descriptive words about their favorite food item without saying its name.
It’s just one small piece of a curriculum created by 17-year-old Katie Eder.
Four years ago, Eder’s sister started tutoring kids in math, and she wanted to follow in her big sister’s footsteps. There was one problem — Katie is bad at math.
But the thing she is good at is writing, and Eder couldn’t find anywhere that offered tutoring for children, so she approached Milwaukee’s COA Youth and Family Center to allow her to teach creative writing.
They took a chance on the 13-year-old and agreed — and the result was Kids Tales, a program to empower children, often in low-income areas or in juvenile detention centers, to use creative writing to discover their voice and share their story.
Teenagers, and only teenagers, volunteer to teach children for a week and guide them as they write their own short story, working on brainstorming and plot and character development. Once the stories are completed, they are put into a book, making each child a published author.
Tom Schneider, COA’s executive director, said there was plenty of skepticism during Eder’s first summer, but the results spoke for themselves.
“We’ve (COA) got nothing but admiration and applause for the work that she’s (Eder) done and the impact of the kids that she’s worked with,” Schneider said.
The Shorewood High School senior said it isn’t uncommon for participants to tell her it felt like the first time their stories could be heard and that their voices mattered.
“I didn’t have an understanding exactly about the impacts that it would have,” Eder said. “I thought, OK this is something I could just keep for myself … but it’s also something that has a real impact and can make a difference.”