Wednesday’s assembly with acclaimed author Matthew de la Peña cemented HDS’ "school of readers" status. It also catalyzed a school of writers.
When the author showed his “Carmela, Full of Wishes” picture book, kindergartners raised their “thumbs up” in recognition. de La Peña displayed books drawn by his illustrator, and the audience buzzed in familiarity. Everyone seemed to know his award-winning picture book “Last Stop on Market Street.”
If students needed more encouragement to grab a book, de la Peña had it. “Fall in love with reading,” he coached. “You will be a better student, friend, son or daughter, and more interesting person if you fall in love with reading.”
This love happened for the author in college. Growing up in a low-income, barely high-school educated community, he describes himself as a mediocre, average student. A basketball scholarship enabled him to be the first in his family to attend college. Here, his affection for reading began. For audience members who feel they are merely average, the author told this story to assure them that “interesting things can be done by ordinary people."
The author, who writes stories about contemporary American childhood, read aloud his newest picture book, "Love." Using one picture, he walked through the illustrator/author collaboration process and detailed how they influence each other.
When an aspiring writer in the audience, asked de la Peña how he starts his stories, the author gave everyone words to live by. “Speak less, listen more. Stories are all around us. All we need to do is listen.“