Resilience: The Power of Personal Narrative

Reader/Writer provides opportunities for young people to draw resilience out of their lives and past experiences.  Many of the young people we work with have experienced extreme and ongoing trauma.  Their stories often include growing up in a war zone, losing their parents, gang violence, physical and sexual abuse, immigration, as well as undiagnosed and untreated mental health challenges.  They are put into foster care, detention centers, treatment facilities, on probation, or deported back to a country they know very little about.  When a young person is struggling to stay safe and get their basic needs met, it’s difficult to find the time or motivation to excel academically in any area.  

At Reader/Writer we know how empowering it is to share a personal narrative that often includes immense bravery, innovation and clever navigation for youth who are viewed by society as troublemakers and problem teens.  Being able to write their own stories and communicate them to responsive adults creates a connection that allows a young person to see their selves as capable and valuable—subsequently building resilience.

Resilience is a tool that will increase their ability to navigate a life in which they are vulnerable and crises and danger are inevitable.  As a society, we have shown that we cannot protect our most vulnerable.  At both Reader/Writer we realize we can at least help them find their strength and agency and assist them in developing the powerful tool of literacy while we work to fix our broken systems.

Resilience is not something you either have or do not have.  It is built through connection, support, positive experiences, small or big accomplishments, recognition, appreciation and witnessing self-growth.  As a young person’s writing improves, the more motivated they become to share their stories. 

Writing and sharing these stories shows young people how much strength they have to draw upon and gives them the opportunity to have that strength recognized and validated by a consistently present and responsive adult.  Through Reader/Writer young people develop the tools of literacy and resilience side by side and increase their own life chances.