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Sacramento teens write, illustrate a pandemic survival guidebook to inspire youth literacy

They hope to influence students at Around the Way Girls Book Club, a literacy program geared towards Black girls in Sacramento.

SACRAMENTO, Calif — "Surviving our new normal" is a pandemic guidebook for teens, written by teens.

Six Sacramento County teenagers came together to author and illustrate their struggles in 2020 as young Black women. They drew on their own experience and use the book to offer advice on how to overcome stress through things like self-care and transitions.

"It's tips and advice on how to really survive and thrive," co-author Aniyah Dubose said.

"Learning to take those breaks, learning to incorporate mindful meditation, and leaning on faith, those were my top survival tips," co-author Nailah Dubose added.

The creative project took five months to complete. Their goal is to inspire their peers who also struggle with distance learning, the pandemic, and the realities of racism and the social justice movement.

"When they read this book, I want them to uplift themselves," co-author Kaia Minor said. "There will always be negative things that we face in our lives, but it’s how you react after those negative things. that really matter."

The young authors currently serve as role models for younger girls at Around the Way Girls, a book club curated for Black girls in Sacramento, part of the Escape Velocity Foundation of South Sacramento. Dana Maisha, one of the coordinators of the program, said she kept the program going virtually during the pandemic, understanding literacy rates would fall with distanced learning and literacy programs like the ones at Escape Velocity could fill in gaps, and keep children engaged.

She fears an entire generation could be set back for life if families and educators aren't mindful of the long-term negative implications for young students who fell behind during the pandemic. 

A child who does not read proficiently by 3rd grade is 4 times more likely to drop out of high school, according to a national 2012 study. Before the pandemic, more than half of all 3rd graders in the 2018-2019 school year did not meet reading standards in California.

"Imagine the deficit they're going to be at when they go back to school," Maisha said.

The six had an answer to their peers avoiding this issue: to influence and to inspire the change to close the achievement gap by sharing their personal stories, their perspectives to their community.

"Don't underestimate the creative power of young people, Black women, coming together for a great cause, using all of our creative juices, and powers to produce ‘Surviving our new Normal’,” Nailah Dubose said.

The authors will be signing copies of their book at the African Market place next Saturday, April 1 at 1pm. Copies are sold inside the market place at All Things Literacy Book Store. The program also has a book club geared towards boys

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