When I listed to 10-year-0ld author Oummu Kabba talk about her work, the sentence that struck me was near the end of the interview. Oummu described why she loved writing, saying, “When I write I feel like I’m in control of the whole world. . . I like having that power over my characters. . . . I like being the controller of that and I don’t want to give that up.”
At age ten, Oummu has done something few of us manage in a lifetime: write and publish four books. Clearly she had some assistance in her publishing venture from her dad, Brima Kabba, but that doesn’t make her accomplishment less remarkable.
Just yesterday I was talking to a colleague about the need for students to feel empowered and hopeful about their ability to make a difference, whether in their families, in their communities, or one day in the world. In our conversation we talked about community problem solving efforts and similar kinds of curriculum. We didn’t think about developing students’ voice and power through fiction writing. Clearly, we should have. Listen to Oummu and her dad talk about the journey that brought about her accomplishments. The interview is short enough it could make an interesting introduction to a conversation with student writers. It could be part of a lesson about writing processes (particularly how Oummu found the ideas for her stories and how they evolved), but it also could be important in a conversation about ways young people make a difference. Oummu found her voice and empowerment through her stories. What are the processes through which your students feel they can make a difference in the world? If they don’t know, perhaps this short story can give them a place to begin thinking.