It's never too early to start educating kids about the environment, says Alison Hestrin Lerner -- so the Harvard-Westlake high school senior in September published a children's book, "The Green Street Kids: The Earth Warriors," targeting future "green" advocates aged four and up.
Lerner, 17, said environmental issues first caught her attention as a kindergartener at Valley Beth Shalom day school.
"My teacher [Carol Pett] was encouraging everyone to recycle cans and bottles before it was the cool thing to do," the author recalled. "She was always talking about things like saving endangered species. Ever since then I have been passionate about the environment -- it has become one of my hobbies."
Lerner began writing the slim, vivid book, which revolves around the Earth-saving aspirations of four elementary school friends, during the summer of 2007. To find an illustrator, she put up fliers around the campus of California Institute of the Arts and connected with Will Kim, a student whose style meshed with her ideas. Lerner sent the story to several publishers, and eventually got a deal with Encino-based Greenbooks Press.
The soft-spoken teenager said she's glad environmental issues have been thrust into the spotlight in recent years, with celebrities and politicians crusading for the cause. "We have to talk about these issues if we want our generation and future generations to enjoy the same planet our parents and grandparents had," she said.
Since publication, Lerner has been promoting the book by reading to kids at local libraries and schools, including Valley Beth Shalom. She wants "The Green Street Kids" to become a series and already has ideas for the next three or four books.
Future installments will focus on specific environmental issues, such as global warming and carbon emissions. In the meantime, Lerner, like her peers, is busy applying to colleges this fall. She wants to study the effects of the environment on human health, and parlay her studies into a career as a physician.