Meet Liam Curley, our November Volunteer of the Month

Our November Volunteer of the Month has been involved with 826 for over six years, devoting his time (and skills!) to help students in our Sunday Drop-In Tutoring Program. Keep reading to get to know Liam Curley and learn why pufferfishes have a place in his heart.

Meet Liam Curley, our November Volunteer of the MonthWhat is one of your favorite moments (memories, experiences or anecdotes!) from volunteering with 826 Valencia?
When I volunteer at 826 on Sundays, during drop-in hours, there’s such a sweet variety of homework, grade-levels, stumbling-blocks, and personalities every week. One day you’re helping a pre-k reader sound out words in an Ernie and Bert book, the next you’re workshopping a high schooler’s essay on themes of resistance in Venezuelan hip-hop. I think about these moments—this spectrum and surprise—the most. It’s a mighty education.
What led you to become part of our volunteer community?
I struggled with reading a lot when I was in school. It didn’t matter to me, and that’s a shame because I could’ve really used it sooner as a kid growing up in the sticks. I know this is a bit too sweet and rainbowy, but reading really is a superpower—a portal, a catapult, a world-opener, a curiosity engine, and more. I wouldn’t have discovered all this without my local library and without spaces like 826, where young readers and writers are encouraged and thrown a party every day.
Do you prefer pirates or pufferfishes, and why?
I’ll go with the kinder, gentler creature: the pufferfish. I love life’s mashups, its oddities, and splendidness. Makes the imagination fire. So a prickly balloon filled with poison? Adorable. First place.
What would we find you doing when not volunteering at 826?
I happily lug books around Small Press Distribution and the Oakland Public Library. I run Sunday night trivia at the Albatross Pub in Berkeley. I’m on the board of Aggregate Space Gallery, a contemporary art space, and Make Oakland Better Now!, a grassroots advocacy organization, and I write—you can read some of my work over at or follow me on Twitter (@liammcurley).
What is a piece of advice you would give a new 826 volunteer?
A first draft is like a lump of clay. It’s not a sculpture yet, not complete. The art is in the editing, but you need that lump of clay first. Get the writing down, get it out, as much as you can. Then start. An 826 volunteer gave me this advice once; I didn’t come up with it on my own. After six years of volunteering, I still fumble, I still ask questions and look for advice, too. I’m still the clay. But that’s what 826 is here for. It’s where students and teachers come together to share and experiment and try. Just dive in and listen.
We’re so grateful for volunteers like Liam. And with the opening of our third center (spring 2019!) we will need even more folks to join our volunteer community. Spread the word!
Read more about our previous Volunteer of the Months.