Brooklyn author motivates parents to encourage young writers

October 29, 2013 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Brooklyn-based Author Matt de la Peña offered advice to over 400 of New York City’s public school parent and community volunteers, principals and parent coordinators on encouraging the city’s students to become enthusiastic young readers and writers, at the Learning Leaders Back to School Rally in October.

The acclaimed author of four young adult novels, including “Ball Don’t Lie” and “Mexican White Boy” (Delacorte Press), as well as middle-grade novel “Infinity Ring: Curse of the Ancients” (Scholastic), spoke about his journey to becoming an author and his experience teaching creative writing to give Learning Leaders volunteers tips on developing their students’ literary skills.

De le Peña emphasized the importance of allowing children to read and write about the topics that interest them. He said, “I wrote what I wanted to write…if students are writing because they have to, there may be a lack of energy. If you let them explore a subject that really engages them, the passion will come out.”

De la Peña also recommended encouraging students to read and write a little every day. He suggested that the Learning Leaders volunteers highlight the fact that punctuation gives instructions for the reader; it is there to show them how to make sense of the writing as they read. De la Peña spoke of the importance of revision, noting that he wrote over 100 drafts of his first novel. He also emphasized that students should not be afraid to abandon a piece of writing that isn’t working and start afresh.

“Often the message you give your children or students today is not going to pay off immediately,” de la Peña said.  “You have to show patience and humility. Everybody comes to [education] with different backgrounds and mindsets.”   

Jane Heaphy, executive director of learning leaders, commented: “Introducing young people to great literature and getting them excited about reading and writing is extremely important to their educational success. The way Matt de la Peña shared his personal experience of becoming a reader and writer resonated with the whole audience. His advice to our parents, community volunteers and teachers on this topic was simple but profound. And it speaks to the mission of Learning Leaders, which recognizes the needs of students for caring, patient, skilled family and community members to encourage and support their educational growth. We believe that it takes the whole community to support our students and increase their success.”

Learning Leaders is NYC’s most experienced non-profit dedicated to engaging families and communities to promote student success in the public schools. It recruits and trains family and community volunteers to offer individualized tutoring and support and provides family education workshops, which empower parents to foster their children’s educational development.

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