Steinbeck Young Authors is an innovative program that was created to provide an opportunity for middle school students to explore the excitement of writing, enhance their writing skills, and introduce them to the works and themes of John Steinbeck.
Over 4,600 students participated in the 2014/15 Steinbeck Young Authors Program. Thank you to all the students, teachers, schools, writing coaches, and supporters who helped make this such a successful year!
Serving over 25,000 students since 2002, SYA has played a significant role in promoting literacy and encouraging middle school students to envision themselves as active co-creators of their educational future.
Students’ 8-month engagement in the program begins with an in-class curriculum based on Steinbeck’s The Red Pony, a coming-of-age story. The curriculum addresses the California Common Core State Standards. It emphasizes the significance of writing and instills understanding of the importance of relating lived experience to literary narratives. Teachers across Monterey County use the curriculum in class and then nominate students to attend a Day of Writing at the National Steinbeck Center.
During the Day of Writing these 100 students have a hands-on experience with horses, learning from veterinarians about the responsibilities of animal care. This helps students to connect with Jody, the young main character in The Red Pony. Students compose an essay that requires them to think deeply about Jody’s actions as well as their own experience with loss and enhanced responsibilities. They meet one-on-one with a writing coach—adult volunteers from the community who use writing in their professional lives. Diverse community leaders participate as coaches, modeling the importance of writing across professions and giving students the experience of having a community member invest in their progress. Each essay is published in the Gabilan Journal, which is most students’ first publication credit.
Students and their families attend an awards ceremony, where local colleges host information tables to spark discussions of college goals. Several awards are presented to acknowledge progress at multiple skill levels, including emerging and advanced writers, and students for whom English is a second language. Students leave the program with renewed enthusiasm for their role as a writer and the importance of that role in the world.
The 2015-2016 Steinbeck Young Authors program is supported by the generosity of the following individuals, businesses, and foundations. Without their generous support, this program would not exist.
Wells Fargo Foundation
Nancy Buck Ransom Foundation
Richard Green Photography
Rodger I. Thompson