Rye Writes: Marissa Licursi Reaches Out with “A Paw and A Flipper”
Writers are always willing to share stories about how they ended up becoming writers, but 16-year-old Marissa Licursi’s is especially worth sharing.
Writers are always willing to share stories about how they ended up becoming writers, but 16-year-old Marissa Licursi’s is especially worth sharing. Her tale began the summer before her freshman year at Convent of the Scared Heart, where she is now a junior.
“I volunteered at the Carver Center in Port Chester, where I tutored younger elementary school students, whose families were financially burdened. I helped these children predominantly with their reading skills. As they read to me, I realized that many of them lacked a fundamental vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension — essential skills for success in school and any vocation. I was committed to change that.
Throughout my life, I have been a part of organizations that are dedicated to raising money for the homeless, the impoverished, people without financial means. What I became cognizant of, however, was that the money these organizations raise only addresses short-term issues and needs. Although these organizations have good intentions, they are not curing the root of the problem. Providing children with strong reading comprehension skills gives them tools needed to succeed in school and provide for themselves and their families thereafter. Hence, investing in a child’s education yields long-lasting benefits.
Studies show that more than one-third of American children entering kindergarten today lack the basic language skills they need to learn to read. Aware of this statistic, coupled with my love and passion for writing, I decided to marry the resources at my school with an organization that addresses the root cause of children’s literacy issues.
I started a club, Publishing Hearts, the following year. We enlisted a talented co-author (Sydney Walker), a fantastic illustrator (Abby Smith, a sophomore), and other students in the club who helped formulate ideas and write our story. Additionally, various English teachers helped in editing the book.
Throughout 2011-2012, 11 of us wrote, illustrated, and eventually published our own children’s book, “A Paw and A Flipper.” I intended for the club to market, advertise, and sell our book and for the proceeds to be donated to a national children’s literacy organization, called Reach Out and Read. By writing a book and connecting with Reach Out and Read, I knew I could have a major impact on children’s lives from a long-term perspective.
Reach Out and Read is aimed at preparing America’s youngest children to succeed in school by partnering with doctors to prescribe books and encourage families to read together. Doctors, nurse practitioners, and other medical professionals incorporate Reach Out and Read’s evidence-based model into regular pediatric checkups, by advising parents about the importance of reading aloud and giving developmentally-appropriate books to children. The program begins at the 6-month checkup and continues through age 5, with a special emphasis on children growing up in low-income communities.”
“A Paw and A Flipper,” geared for ages 2 to 7, is the enchanting story of a polar cub named Charlie who accidentally falls into the Arctic waters when fishing. The oceans carry him from the North Pole to Antarctica where he is befriended by a penguin named Lily.
Could a polar cub have survived this trip, we asked the author?
Licursi answered, “No, but, this is fiction, and we kept our imaginations wide open to ensure that creative and imaginative elements were added in order to enhance our story.” She added, “We did do thorough research on the North and South Pole, polar bears, penguins, and other areas referenced in the book to ensure the accuracy of our facts.”
What was the best part of writing the book, we asked Licursi?
“Late last winter, at a Publishing Hearts meeting, we compiled all of the scenes we wrote individually into one, cohesive document. This was the first moment in which the whole story came together, and had to be my favorite part of the entire writing process. Moreover, it was obvious that, in this very instant, we were all extremely enthusiastic to publish our book!
Now that the book is published, I can also say the best part is knowing we are making a real difference. Publishing Hearts is centered on the ancient proverb, ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.’”
Marissa Licursi is not sure where life will lead her — she is passionate about writing but is also interested in business, law, and international studies — but she is sure she will continue her work in helping to refine children’s reading skills.
“A Paw and A Flipper” is available on Amazon, Arcade Books, Learning Express, Rhythm in Rye, and www.publishinghearts.webs.com. The book is also available at book signings and story time readings at local libraries. On Friday, March 8 at 3:30 p.m., Licursi will be reading her book to children at the Rye Free Reading Room.
Publishing Hearts has raised $11,000 from sales of “A Paw and A Flipper” since its publication in October, and they have “strong momentum moving into 2013.”