MSF & GLSEN Release Curriculum Based On “October Mourning,” Book of Poetry About Matthew Shepard

Contact: Jason Marsden                                                                    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Phone: 303-830-7400
Email: jason@matthewshepard.org

NEW YORK, Mar. 18, 2014—GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, the Matthew Shepard Foundation, Lesléa Newman and Candlewick Press are excited to announce the release of new classroom curriculum titled He Continues to Make a Difference: Commemorating the Life of Matthew Shepard.

Based on the story of 21-year-old Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in an anti-gay hate crime in 1998, the curriculum will offer guidelines for teachers to incorporate themes of empathy and social justice into their lesson plans, support LGBT students in the classroom, and introduce LGBT-inclusive materials into their curricula. Using Lesléa Newman’s award-winning book of poetry, October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard, as a foundation, educators can foster meaningful dialogue with students while meeting English, language arts and social studies standards in their classrooms.

“We are thrilled that teachers will be able to share Matthew’s story in a way that encourages teachers and students to make schools a healthy place where all students can learn,” said Jason Marsden, Executive Director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

In the curriculum, GLSEN, the Matthew Shepard Foundation, Lesléa Newman and Candlewick Press provide teachers with lesson plans and student handouts designed to help educators:

  • Introduce students to the story of Matthew Shepard as a means of promoting a dialogue about acceptance;
  • Incorporate age-appropriate LGBT themes and discussions about diversity and respect into preexisting English and social studies curricula;
  • Foster a classroom culture that is safe, respectful and free of anti-LGBT bias or bullying;
  • Create LGBT-inclusive, age-appropriate lesson plans that may be used year-round and with other materials.

“GLSEN is honored to join Lesléa, the Matthew Shepard Foundation and Candlewick Press to support this important and impactful project,” said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard. “The tragic loss of Matthew Shepard resonates with our youth to this day, and we are humbled to be able to honor his memory with stories and resources that will support and comfort LGBT youth for years to come.”

The release of the curriculum also coincides with the beginning of National Poetry Month, celebrated in April in schools across the country, offering a key opportunity for educators to introduce October Mourning and other works of poetry with LGBT themes into their lessons. It also supplements existing GLSEN curriculum and other resources on introducing LGBT-inclusive materials into classrooms of all grade levels.

To download the resource, visit GLSEN.org/matthewshepard.

About GLSEN

GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN’s research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.

About Lesléa Newman

An author and gay rights activist, Lesléa has written more than 60 books for readers of all ages. Her children’s book Heather Has Two Mommies was the first picture book to portray a family of two lesbian mothers and their child in a positive way. Lesléa is also the author of the teen novel-in-verse October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard, which explores the impact of Matthew Shepard’s murder in a cycle of 68 poems told from various points of view, including the truck he was kidnapped in, the fence to which he was tied, the stars that watched over him, and a deer that kept him company all through the night. October Mourning has won many literary awards, including an American Library Association Stonewall Honor and the Florida Council of Teachers of English Joan F. Kaywell Award. Lesléa has given her presentation, “He Continues to Make a Difference: The Story of Matthew Shepard,” all over the country at high schools, colleges, libraries, and conferences, hoping to inspire students to carry on Matthew Shepard’s legacy to erase hate and make the world a safer place for all. Visit Lesléa online at www.lesleakids.com.

About the Matthew Shepard Foundation

The Matthew Shepard Foundation was founded by Dennis and Judy Shepard in memory of their 21-year old son, Matthew, who was murdered in an anti-gay hate crime in Wyoming in October 1998. Created to honor Matthew in a manner that was appropriate to his dreams, beliefs, and aspirations, the Foundation seeks to “Replace Hate with Understanding, Compassion, & Acceptance” through its varied educational, outreach and advocacy programs and by continuing to tell Matthew’s story. Visit the Foundation online at www.matthewshepard.org.

About Candlewick Press

Candlewick Press, which celebrated its twentieth anniversary in 2012, is an independent, employee-owned publisher based in Somerville, Massachusetts. Candlewick publishes outstanding children’s books for readers of all ages, including books by award-winning authors and illustrators such as M. T. Anderson, Kate DiCamillo, Jon Klassen, Laura Amy Schlitz, and David Ezra Stein; the widely acclaimed Judy Moody, Mercy Watson, and ‘Ology series; and favorites such as Guess How Much I Love You, Where’s Waldo?, and Maisy. Candlewick is part of the Walker Books Group, together with Walker Books UK in London and Walker Books Australia, based in Sydney and Auckland. Visit Candlewick online at www.candlewick.com.

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