Léna is also a Regional Manager for Writopia Lab whose mission is to foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in kids and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lit.Life on a Snow Day in NYC

Snow Day in NYC . . . Really? Okay, it's a great excuse to stay in my pajamas and finish reading Positively by fellow Writopia instructor Courtney Sheinmel. (Meg also shot me an email, asking if I would post something because she needed something to read as there was no school. Ha, ha!)

I was supposed to head up to Harlem Links Charter School this morning to see my friend Steve and to talk to some of his fifth grade class about A Wrinkle in Time. I haven't seen Steve since last year - he is very busy helping to run this wonderful school of which he is a founding member. It's funny because the same thing happened last year - the city had called a snow day on my scheduled visit!

In Steve's email to me yesterday, he invited me to participate in Read Across America on March 2nd, an event I went to last year where author's come and both read to and are interviewed by the kids. (It's a good thing I have a great reading voice as I am not quite published!) He also called it an "amazing coincidence" because, as he has been reading my blogs, he knows what has been going on in my lit.life.

He writes:

"By the way, if it’s any further enticement, I forgot to mention that Elizabeth Winthrop is signed up to come to Read Across America this year. I saw the synchronicity on your blog! Turns out she is a friend not only of one of our board members, but also a childhood friend of a former board member who is still involved in the school (and those two people don’t know each other!)."

Wild, huh? I get very excited about things like this!

Now onto Positively . . . I should have kept a box of tissues by my side, because my eyes were wet the whole time. Sheinmel opens the book with the death of thirteen year old Emmy's mother, death from HIV/AIDS. What is different about this book is that not only does Emmy have to deal with all of the feelings that come up from her mother's death, but the fact that she is HIV positive herself. Sheinmel expertly navigates Emmy's inner world and gives us a rich portrait of anger and grief as well as the struggle to keep a positive attitude in the face of loss and uncertainty. It is only when Emmy goes to a camp where she meets other girls with the same trauma, that her heart begins to melt.

Sheinmel does an amazing job of educating while she tells the story - not an easy task. HIV/AIDS is still a public health issue, and it seems to have fallen by the wayside. I remember growing up in the '80's and early '90's when it was constantly in the news and education about the disease was paramount. In the late '90's I remember teaching a health class and having it be part of the curriculum. Can anybody tell me whether HIV/AIDS is still getting the attention it deserves? Thank goodness there are better medicines so that people can live with the disease for longer, but people are still dying; it's still an epidemic. I want to thank Courtney from the bottom of my heart for shedding light on this subject. Read it! Have your kids read it! And if you want to donate, Courtney is heavily involved with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

To sum up and tie these two seemingly disparate things together, I am hoping that Courtney will be able to join Elizabeth and me with Steve at Harlem Links on March 2nd!


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