Story Planet is not-for-profit creative writing initiative for kids that has been spreading the literacy love in Toronto since 2009. We do workshops in schools and community centres around the GTA that focus on promoting literacy and developing confidence through writing and art.

I got turned on to the idea of Story Planet after finding out about the 826 Centres in the US, which were started by author Dave Eggers. (If you haven’t watched his TED speech, you should and you will get the gist of what the 826 spirit is all about).

As a creative writing grad from UBC who loves working with kids, I was elated when I found out that an organization very similar to 826 was in the works in Toronto. Story Planet is tackling the problems our public school system is facing—a lack of one-on-one attention, low literacy levels, and a full curriculum that doesn’t always allow time for creative programming—all within a quirky, creative environment that is really hard to not to get excited about.

I have been involved with Story Planet as a volunteer and workshop facilitator since 2010, and it’s been pretty amazing to watch the organization develop. I lead the collective story writing workshops, where a group of kids (ranging from grades 1 to 8) write a story together up until the crisis point and then break out on their own to finish the story individually. At these workshops we also have a professional artist who illustrates the kids’ ideas as they go along, which to put it simply, blows the kids’ (and often teachers’) minds.

Story Planet takes kids’ voices seriously—we encourage creative never-thought-before ideas and help kids to channel those ideas into a story. After every workshop that we do, each child gets to take home a bound book containing their writing and art to show to their school, friends and family. Their abstract ideas are put into a format that can be understood and enjoyed by others—their ideas become legitimate and they realize they are awesome.

Up until this month, Story Planet hasn’t had our own space to hold workshops and programming, but the stars aligned this summer and we are moving into our very own space at Bloor and Dufferin this fall. The building needs plenty of work before we are ready to invite the neighbourhood kids in, so we are embarking on one of the most exciting (and daunting) experiences so far. We need $36,000 and a whole lot of love from everyone we know to get our space running. In addition to the writing space in the centre, we are also opening a retail space at the front of the building—an Alien Space Terminal—where we will be selling everything from Alien Jerky (for the hungry space-trucker on the go) to books of our students’ writing.

We are throwing a fundraiser at Magpie (@ Dundas and Euclid) on Tuesday October 25th, 2011, where we will be raising money to go towards renovations and supplies for our new space. There will be bingo, bevs, and magnificent prizes for bingo champs. We would love it if you would come by and meet the Story Planet crew, learn about how you can get involved with our cause (we need volunteers to do just about everything right now) and buy a drink to support our vision!

Story Planet Fundraiser
7:30 pm-11 pm, Oct. 25th
Magpie, 831 Dundas St. W.

~ Kaleigh Wisman, photos by Jon Sturge