Discussion Questions and Activities

Educators from elementary school through university are using our books in their classroom to educate and engage. Stay tuned as we add curriculum and share stories of impact. 

How To Grow Up Like Me, by the authors of Ballou High School

"Your Story Is Your Strength." This is the mantra that emerged from a six-month writing project at Ballou High School in Washington, DC, in which eleven dedicated freshmen and six determined seniors told their stories of ambition and struggle in what came to be known as The Ballou Story Project. Together their poignant, powerful voices come together to tell a collective story of How To Grow Up Like Me, a kind of instruction manual for determination, grit, and daily acts of hope and courage.

Curriculum developed by Renae Ramble, DC educator.


The Untold Story of the Real Me, by the poets of Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop

The Untold Story of the Real Me is a collection of poems written by young people who were charged and incarcerated as adults at the age of 16 or 17. All poets are members of the Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop; many are currently incarcerated in the DC Jail or federal prison. Their work explores themes of parenthood, love, pain, identity, race, and freedom in voices both raw and powerful. This collection also features individual profiles of Free Minds members who are home from prison and serving as Poet Ambassadors in the violence prevention initiative, “On the Same Page.” Already being used in classrooms across the country to start conversations around youth violence and the justice system, The Untold Story of the Real Me provides a new take on the power of one voice to speak truth to pain, to seek redemption and healing. 

Curriculum developed by Free Minds Book Club.


The Day Tajon Got Shot, by the teen authors of Beacon House

In March 2015, ten teen girls from Beacon House in Washington, DC started writing a novel during the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. They began with one central question: What really happens in a community when a black youth is the victim of violence by police? How are those lives affected? Each writer takes on the perspective of a central character – the victim, the police officer, the witness, the parent, the friend, the officer's kids – and examines how it feels to be a human being on all sides of this event. Their stories thoughtfully explore issues of race, violence, loyalty, and justice in a community torn apart but seeking connection.

Curriculum developed by Sheila McMullin, Shout Mouse Story Coach.


Humans of Ballou, by the teen authors of Ballou High School

The students of Ballou High School know a different Washington, DC than do the tourists who visit our nation’s capital each year. Some travel guides call the neighborhoods East of the River “areas to avoid.” But the statistics about crime or poverty in these communities paint a picture that is profoundly incomplete. These are the stories not on the tour. As one student put it, “[Come] to my side of town and see what’s monuments to me.” With style and humor and ambition and charm, Ballou students and educators tell their own stories on their own terms, through intimate conversation and photography. 

Curriculum developed by Sheila McMullin, Shout Mouse Story Coach.


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Our Lives Matterby the teen authors of Ballou High School

Through the course of a historic year of civil unrest and the emergence of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement, thirty teen writers from Frank W. Ballou High School in Washington, DC came together to take part in this national conversation about race, inequality, violence, and justice. Through their powerful, personal stories these writers intend to Change the Narrative about youth of color. We are not thugs, they say. We are not victims. We are big sisters and sports stars, academic strivers and everyday heroes. We speak out for justice. We dream big dreams. These writers want more for themselves, more for their community, more for their generation. And they are challenging their readers to listen, and to recognize in each story a common humanity worthy of dignity, support, and respect. This riot of voices must be heard.

Curriculum developed by Sheila McMullin, Shout Mouse Story Coach.