‘I Still Can't Believe It': Teen Authors in D.C. Aim to Make an Impact With New Books

The young writers have been guided through a workshop for high school students

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Some new children's books will be hitting shelves soon, touching on important issues such as racial justice — and they've been written by some of the District's youngest authors.

"It's not every day that somebody gets to tell their story," said Diarou Bayo, a sophomore at D.C.'s Coolidge High School.

The teen authors have been guided through a writers' workshop for high school students, offered by a program called Reach Incorporated. Through the workshop, the teens create their own children's books on important issues.

The idea is to teach kids from a young age about the world around them.

"Our kids have never been afraid of the issues that are really on their mind," said Mark Hecker, executive director of Reach Incorporated.

The latest round of books deals with matters such as coronavirus, racial justice and police brutality.

One book, "Breonna Marches Through Time," focuses on an 8-year-old time-traveler living in Southeast D.C. Her name is Breonna -- after Breonna Taylor. Reads a summary on the publisher's website: "As she watches 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, she sees her once-vibrant community wilt into sadness and anger. She is filled with questions about what is going on and why — and she’s determined to do something about it."

As for Bayo, she co-wrote a book called "Diarou's Not So Different," which tells her own life story of moving to the United States and not understanding English. Some days, she said, she was so lonely that she ate lunch in the bathroom.

"My message is for the kids, just to know that you are not alone," she says now.

Bayo's book and all the others are now available online through Shout Mouse Press. The publishing company has helped put out about 30 children's books in total.

The books will soon be sent to D.C. schools. The authors also serve as tutors for younger kids, using their books for lessons on literacy.

Bayo said she’s proud to see her name in print.

"I still can’t believe it; you would tell me that a hundred times, I still cannot believe it," she said.

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