AUSTIN, Texas — Typically this time of year, the Paramount Theatre would be hosting its in-person summer camps, teaching kids how to write original stories. This year, things look a bit different – but that's not stopping them from helping kids avoid summer learning loss.
The Paramount Story Wranglers Summer Writing Roundup is a weekly story writing engagement opportunity for students.
Literacy to Life Program Director Mitch Harris said the program is open to any age. Students are given a writing theme each week. They submit their story to the website and a professional actor, musician, cartoonist or other artist takes one of the stories and turns it into a digital performance.
Last week's theme was courage, and the winner was 4th-grade student Concetta Pilgrim. They wrote a story called "Simplest Dreams" about showing courage and support for friends who are nonbinary.
"I wanted to put other people in the shoes of a gender nonbinary [person], and then show them how people feel when other people get their pronouns wrong," Pilgrim said.
"The courage in the story not only comes from that character advocating for their own pronouns but also for their friends really stepping up and making that safe space for the main character," Harris said.
The story was turned into a song called "Simplest Dreams" by local musician Jackie Venson. The chorus goes, "Love me, no matter if I'm they, him, she."
"I called Cetta over right away when I saw it. And they listened to the song, so we jammed out to it for a little bit," Maya Pilgrim, Concetta's mom, said.
One of the goals of the writing program is to lift up the voices of young writers.
"Our goal is to get in there and teach students that writing is something that can be fun. It can be self-expressive. It can be whatever they want to make it," Harris said.
Maya Pilgrim shared her thoughts on the importance of writing, saying, "I think as we make sense of the world, it's really important for everyone, and especially children, to have an outlet to express their ideas, express their emotions, and writing can be a safe way to do that."
"To me, it's important because other people can, in writing, other people can see how you feel from a distance," Maya Pilgrim said.
The Paramount will continue its Story Wranglers Writing Roundup throughout the summer, allowing other kids to share their stories.
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