Arlene is on the SCENE

Posts Tagged ‘charcot-marie-tooth

tiche.1Forty-six schools, eight states, 6600 students. The third year of the Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation’s School Outreach Program was our best yet! From our home state of Rhode Island, to our current homes in New York and Washington, DC, and on out to Chicago and Dallas, we met our goal of reaching more students, teachers and parents than ever.

Our school presentations deepen understanding of disability as difference, something that can be embraced rather than merely tolerated or accepted. With our sequel, Arlene, the Rebel Queen, we added the powerful message that every young person has the potential to change the world. In fact, perhaps the young are best suited to lead us to change! With the addition of our Team CMT Kids program, we provide the opportunity for students to join with us in our mission to one day cure Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT). Be sure to check out our new video of highlights from this year’s presentation.

Having presented at almost 100 schools since first writing Arlene on the Scene, educators are beginning to spread the word on the classroom potential for the Arlene series. We’ve received positive reviews from the School Library Journal, our Teacher’s Guide for Arlene On the Scene has been revised, and many schools have taken advantage of discounted class sets. Both books will also be assessed this summer for their reading levels.

We believe that awareness is an integral part of HNF’s mission to support those living with CMT. We have found that our children’s books and accompanying school presentations have resulted in increased understanding and support for our friends and family members living with CMT, as well as all of those we know who live with all kinds of disabilities and differences. That would include just about all of us!

We look forward to next year, increasing our reach even further. Don’t forget to contact us if you’re interested in a free school presentation in your area.

Thank you letters–

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The biggest Team CMT Kids event of the year featured a group of youth triathletes going the distance to support those who live with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.

IMG_1053The Playtri Youth and Junior Teams of Dallas, TX are incredible athletes! At the Hidden Cove Youth Triathlon meet last week, these kids, ranging in age from eight to fifteen, jumped into frigid lake water in the early morn for a challenging swim, then hopped on their bikes for a few laps around the park, rounding it all out with a run to the finish line–no, make that sprint to the finish line. Yes, they had enough energy left to burst through that inflated arch, shaving precious seconds off their total time.

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What made it all so moving was knowing that these kids had chosen to support those living with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease at this event. The team read the book Arlene On the Scene earlier in the year and had learned about the challenges of those living with CMT. They then set out to raise money in the weeks leading up to their first big team competition of the season. Through their efforts and dedication, the Playtri team raised $1275 for the cause! This money will be donated to the Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation to support their efforts to find treatments and a cure for CMT.

IMG_1030tiche.1We also presented at elementary schools in Dallas in the days before the triathlon event. Seven schools received free author visits, and about 1200 students learned about empathy, disability, and CMT through a discussion of the Arlene books, along with a reminder of the power of writing! Cesar Chavez Learning Academy, Sam Houston Elementary, Truett Elementary, Mark Twain, M.T. Reilly, and Central Elementary all participated in these lively discussions. Titche Elementary even blogged about it! As most who’ve read these books know, Carol grew up in Rhode Island and is an East Coast gal. But Dallas folks sure are friendly! Students asked amazing questions and had great insight into the social issues discussed at the presentations. Thank you to all the media specialists who opened their doors to our School Outreach Program! We’ll be coming back to “the DFW” next year for sure!

Thank you again to the Playtri team and Coach Morgan Johnson! We couldn’t accomplish our mission without your support!

playtri team

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Kizirian Elementary School in Providence, RI has found Arlene On the Scene to be a great teaching tool in many areas. Bonus: it’s a fun read!

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After purchasing a copy for all of the third graders, Kizirian Elementary dove right in. Using our free Teacher’s Guide and graphic organizers, students learned about disability and Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, as well as broader topics such as the power of empathy and the beauty in embracing differences. Kids created their own campaign signs and even made their own Plumpy the Pumpkin!

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They also used worksheets from the Teacher’s Guide to explore their own character and that of their peers. They practiced avoiding judgments based on outside appearances and using their empathy skills to support one another.

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Finally, for Character Day, students dressed up like their favorite characters from Arlene On the Scene and Arlene, the Rebel Queen!

Arlene

Arlene

Mr. Musgrove

Mr. Musgrove

Arlene

Arlene

Kechup and Mustard

Kechup and Mustard

Kizirian Elementary students, you are a shining example of the power of empathy! You are awesome!

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Arlene has been on the road again!

We visited fourteen schools in our home state of Rhode Island in early April. Wow, was it good to go home again! I even went to my alma mater, Sherman School. And there was that red bench, the one Arlene sits on near the end of Rebel Queen when she has a heart-to-heart with Mr. Musgrove. While the bench has been painted, and the seats in the auditorium are now cushioned (cushions! I had to sit on hard wood, for hours, with no bathroom breaks…), my former school has the same warm feel, the same welcoming vibe.

Kizirian Elementary, Providence

Kizirian Elementary, Providence

We simply had a great time in Rhode Island! From Narragansett to Quidnessett, Coventry to Providence, Warwick to Johnston, we met amazing students at every school. We even ventured into southern Massachusetts, to Braintree and Arlington. Students at every school jumped into a great discussion of empathy, self-image, and the power of activism. Through these conversations, and an amazing video of eight year old Jennifer Keelan climbing the steps of the US Capitol, we learned that one person, one kid, can indeed change the world! We spent some extra time with kids at Kizirian Elementary in Providence–they had great questions! Hope their biographies are coming along. We also want to send a big thank you to Wakefield Books for hosting a book signing with Grace and Marybeth!

Carol, Marybeth and Grace at book signing, Wakefield Books, RI

Carol, Marybeth and Grace at book signing, Wakefield Books, RI

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Margo Toth, teacher extraordinaire, and Carol Liu

We also just got back from Illinois–Naperville to be exact, just outside of Chicago. What a great town, great kids! And I had the pleasure of meeting in person a wonderful teacher I’ve heard about for years, my husband’s fourth grade teacher from Madison, NJ. There she is, still in the classroom, still inspiring young minds. Her second graders had just finished reading Arlene On the Scene and had many insightful questions and responses.

At every school, students and teachers learn about Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and the challenges our friends and families face each day. They begin to understand why the mission of the Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation is so important. More broadly, we highlight the power of empathy and the beauty in not accepting, not tolerating, but embracing differences.

Still left on the schedule this year: New York, Philadelphia, and Dallas. Be sure to let us know if you’re interested in a free author presentation! Details can be found on our program brochure, and you can email us any time for more information!

Carol with Elmwood 3rd GradersIMG_0979IMG_0965DSCN0158

CLC Seal of Approval simsilvfoilWhile it’s not available in stores quite yet, Arlene, the Rebel Queen is being deemed a good read by some! Children’s Literary Classics gave the sequel to Arlene On the Scene its Seal of Approval, saying it “belongs on every youngster’s reading list.” Read the full review.

We’re so pleased that they liked the book but more importantly, that they understood our point. Well, pointS. We had a lot of them. We wanted to talk to kids about change, and that making change happen can be complicated and risky. As we finish honoring Martin Luther King, swear Barak Obama in as president, and head into African-American history month, let’s be honest–change is huge. It can be frightening. But we can learn so much from looking back on changes we’ve been through, and recognizing the sacrifices made by the leaders of change.

But given that, you–yes, YOU–can be an agent of change. We all can. And should! In our homes, our schools, our communities, even the world. Rebel Queen was written to demonstrate to young readers that they have the power to make positive changes in their corner of the world. Right now!

Finally, we wanted to talk about the interpersonal relationship between Arlene and her friend Lauren. Watching our daughters weave their way through the jungle that is the tween/teen social scene, Marybeth and I wanted to dive right in to these issues–how do friendships evolve over time? How does one navigate through a waning friendship and emerge with self-confidence in tact? And what does difference and disability add to that dynamic?

Well, not to say we answered all those questions. As Mr. Goldberg says in the book, many of life’s biggest questions simply don’t have answers. Asking the question and thinking about it, that’s the point. Arlene isn’t thrilled with this idea, but she rolls with it. Which in the end is what she learns we have to do with change.

Feels like school’s basically out already for the summer, doesn’t it? In our house it does! It’s sunny and 90 degrees here in Washington, DC! So I thought it was a good time to wrap up the second year of our School Outreach Program, see how we did.

Well, we certainly hit our goals! The first year we visited 23 schools, and this year it was 30. And we ventured off the east coast! We went to Los Angeles and had a great time there. We spoke to 4000 students in all, talking about important issues, such as disability, self-image, the value of diversity, and the power of writing. With each presentation, students and teachers learn about Charcot-Marie-Tooth and the mission of the Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation to support those living with CMT. And with each presentation, we highlight the importance of empathy, true understanding of each other’s strengths and needs, so that our classrooms can be bully-free and comfortable places for kids to let their true selves shine.

We ended this fantastic year with a visit to a great school nearby, Olney Elementary. There we encountered something that made us think of foreshadowing. All you third, fourth and fifth graders reading this, if you don’t know what that is, go look it up before you read on. [Insert my lame attempt to whistle…] You done? Ok, yes, foreshadowing. At Olney, we met this great group of kids who call themselves the Recycle Rangers…

Carol got to meet Olney Elementary School’s Recycle Rangers!

…and this made us think about foreshadowing (when an author gives you hints about what’s coming later in the plot). Turns out one of the main parts of the sequel to Arlene On the Scene is that Arlene and her friends start a recycling group at her school, just like Olney Elementary’s Recycle Rangers. So we asked them lots of questions. Authors have to do their research, even when writing fiction!

The sequel is our summer project. We’ve finished a draft, but as anyone who has seen our presentation knows, now the real work begins–the editing! Yes, this will take a while, but hopefully we’ll be able to get the sequel out sometime next year. Working title [insert drumroll]: Arlene, the Rebel Queen. Please, comment away! Olney kids gave it a thumbs up, but tell us honestly–does it grab you?

And don’t forget to contact us and get on the schedule for next year! Presentations are completely free of charge, thanks to the support of the Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation, and we also donate copies of the book to the library of each school we visit. We’re only limited by the challenges of time and geography, so just let us know and we’ll try to work out a trip to your local school!

Boy I wish I were announcing that Arlene On the Scene is about to made into a blockbuster motion picture!

Unfortunately…not yet!  I’ve had several students tell me recently that they have “connections”  to the industry and will put in a good word for me.  That’s terrific!  I think these kids really just want to see Plumpy rolling down the hill, flattening Joey and his buddies!  If you don’t know what I’m referring to, you really must read the book!  🙂

But we did make it to sunny CA.  Only to find it 20 degrees colder than on the east coast!  What gives?

I want to give a big shout-out to Dahlia Heights and Rockdale elementary schools for being such great audiences and great listeners.  It was so great to meet you!

Now, it’s on to Rhode Island.  Oh, you know I have to go back home again!  We’ll visit eight schools in RI in mid-April, talking to kids about differences, disability, and the power we have to change the world!

Check out our School Outreach Program: we’ll come to your school for free and donate a few copies of Arlene On the Scene for your library!  We discuss how it’s really our job, using our empathy skills, to create a safe place for all of us to be ourselves, our true selves, including difference, disability, whatever you bring to the group.  It’s all sponsored by the Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation to raise awareness of Charcot-Marie-Tooth, which is the condition that “Arlene” deals with.  Along with the more tricky issues that a fourth grader has to face: friends, teachers, homework, parents, big brothers…

A recent survey tells us that kids with autism are much more likely to be bullied.  The new movie, Bully, coming out this week will bring needed awareness to this important issue.  We hope to continue to contribute as much as we can to this awareness effort, school by school, student by student.

Let us know if we can come to meet you–contact us today!  We just need a few schools in the same general area, and we’ll be on our way!


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Arlene On the Scene is proudly sponsored by the Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation.

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