Story of their lives


A project encourages area kids to write and nurtures creativity.

UIndy professor Kevin McKelvey is on a mission. His goal? To make writing fun for kids. Based on the national program called 826 Valencia, Second Story was created here two years ago as a way to work with kids in the community and bring creative writing into their lives.

‘This is a great experience for my students because they are working with the authors and making all the decisions that go into writing a book, such as font choices, layout, designing covers, and editing the writing’ —Kevin McKelvey

“Our goal is to improve kids’ attitude about writing and get them to see it as a fun way to create and to learn,” McKelvey explains.

An assistant professor of writing, editing, and publishing at UIndy, McKelvey also works with the programming and curriculum development for
Second Story.

“Once we make it fun, attitudes about writing improve and we see better test scores in the end.”

Second Story takes a trained teaching team into local elementary and middle schools to work with students, either in one-day workshops or over an eight- to 10-week period.

Using research-based methods and adhering to the state’s educational standards, Second Story provides writing prompts for the students and asks them to begin by crafting poems or short stories.

The program uses fun and interactive approaches to encourage students and make the process enjoyable.

In addition to working with kids during the year, Second Story offers summer camps around the city at parks and community centers. The goal is
to help the youngsters realize the value of their communities and to express their lives through writing.

“We give the kids the opportunity to be crazy and creative and write silly things,” McKelvey says, “and it’s really empowering to them.”

“When we have a few weeks to work with them, we might work on a longer project such as writing about something in their neighborhood. We just provide the writing prompts and let them work from there.”

UIndy students: by the book

Students in McKelvey’s Desktop Publishing class at UIndy are supporting efforts of Second Story. In the spring semester, UIndy students took the writings from the seventh grade class at IPS #2 and created a book for the students.

“Not only is writing a transformative experience for the seventh graders,” McKelvey says, “but actually publishing the writings is another artifact of the students’ success.”

McKelvey plans to take his publishing class next fall to SENSE Charter School in Fountain Square, a few miles north of UIndy.

He’ll offer his college students a service-learning experience there, working with the elementary students, creating and teaching writing prompts, hosting a celebration reading with the kids, and publishing their writings.

“Once we make the kids realize that writing is fun and not just about writing a report, they see it as a fun activity and a way to empower themselves,” McKelvey says. “We’re starting to see results; the kids have better test scores and better attitudes about writing.

“It’s nice to see those results and to see the kids becoming better readers and writers.”