Teen Literacy – Books of Hope
Books of Hope was a project pioneered by writer and educator Anika Nailah. She lived in the neighborhood of the Mystic Housing Development, a family housing development which was home to a large at-risk youth population. Nailah wanted to teach these teens -- many of them speaking English as a second language -- the power and pleasure of reading and writing. Her initiative was welcomed by the Mystic Learning Center, which provided space and helped recruit and support participant. The Somerville Arts Council agreed to sponsor the project, providing funds and other support. Nailah developed her own curriculum and successfully mentored a group of 20 teens, challenging and encouraging them to write their own books on any subject: autobiography, science fiction, romance, fantasy. The project then published their writings, and the young authors could sell their chapbooks at Books of Hope readings and special events.
Miller saw first-hand how much the teens participating in the Mystic Mural Project struggled with writing and research; she was therefore an early and enthusiastic supportor of Nailah, a visionary teacher and mentor. She secured a 3-year grant for Books of Hope from the Massachusetts Cultural Council to stabilize the fledging project and found opportunities to integrate the teen authors into other Arts Council activities.