Dear Ms. Draper,
My name is Archer Calder and I am 12 years old. When I was in fourth grade, I randomly picked your book, Out of My Mind, off the shelf in my school library. I had no idea how much your book would influence my life. I have a sister with disabilities; and like the main character in your book, Melody, she is unable to talk. Reading about Melody really made me think about my sister’s point of view.
In the beginning of the book, Melody is in a special education class and they have been reviewing the same few sounds in the alphabet for weeks. Melody wants to say that she understands what they are teaching and that she feels like she and her classmates are not reaching their full potential. Like Melody, I know my sister understands a lot more than people give her credit for. We shouldn’t assume that just because a person cannot talk that they are slow to learn. Sometimes my sister gets off the bus crying and I think about the challenges that she - and other kids like her - face at school. Like Melody, I know that my sister probably gets upset because she unable to express her feelings clearly at school.
Another part of your story that has helped influence my life, is the part with the toy blocks. While watching TV, Melody sees a commercial announcing a recall for toy blocks with lead paint. The next day Melody is at the store with her mom and she sees the dangerous blocks on the shelf. She points them out to her mom and tries to communicate that they should be taken off the shelf, but her mom thinks she is just asking her to buy them. I can tell that this was very frustrating to Melody, and it gave me a deeper perspective on the frustration my sister feels when she tries to communicate. What I think my sister is trying to tell me might not always be what she is actually trying to communicate. After reading about Melody, I now try to understand the deeper connections my sister might be trying to make in her life, and not just simply thinking that she is saying “I want.”
Before I read Out of My Mind, I viewed my sister’s communication as very simple. I rarely thought of the deeper connections she might be trying to convey. After reading Out of My Mind, I now put more effort into trying to understand the things she communicates. Sometimes it can be challenging but I try to give a lot of effort into understanding her. I personally feel like the book Out of My Mind strengthened the relationship I have with my sister.
I want to thank you for giving me a new perspective on people with disabilities. It has helped me and many people that have read this book to understand the point of view of someone with disabilities. It has helped me to have more compassion for my sister and to have a better relationship with her. I’m so lucky I had picked out Out of My Mind from the other hundreds of books in the library that day. I’m glad to say I now have my own copy, and I can read it as often as I want!