By Dr. Marciene Mattleman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Twelve years ago at 826 Valencia Street in San Francisco, a single writing center opened. Now, 826 National reaches 30,000 students, mostly from underserved communities.

Founded by author Dave Eggers and educator Ninive Calegari, there are eight centers around the country with unique storefronts firing up students’ imaginations.

Students come free after school, get homework help, and classes come for storytelling and bookmaking field trips. STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and math – are introduced through science projects, giving inspiration to fiction writing.

Recent evaluations suggest that these exciting environments build confidence and stronger academics. In the 2011-12 school year, participants made average increases of 13% in story composition skills.

The one-to-one help using mostly volunteers is special for these low income kids, where staff uses the Socratic method of nurturing and support, not teaching. With more school time spent for reading and math, writing becomes special.

Read more in Education Week.

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