On Thursday, November 29, we were honored to host Newbery award-winning author Matt de la Peña at Brookwood School. Matt spoke to students about his path to becoming a writer and shared anecdotes from his childhood, like the fact that he was a reluctant reader and had little exposure to books in his early years.
In addition to being Brookwood’s One School, One Book selection for the 2018-19 school year, Last Stop on Market Street has been recognized with the John Newbery Medal for literature—the most prestigious prize in American children’s books—and received a Caldecott Honor in 2016. Christian Robinson’s paint and collage illustrations are beautifully paired with Matt’s poetic text, ultimately creating a unique visual and literary experience filled with inspiring quotes such as “The outside smelled like freedom” and “Some people watch the world with their ears.”
Through One School, One Book, Brookwood selects one picture book per academic year that all ages can access, creating a school-wide shared literary experience. Every member of our school community, including students, faculty and staff, receives a copy of the book, and this year’s program has inspired teachers and students in a number of ways, including:
- In PreK, creating a mural of a school bus, complete with pictures of students in the windows, as well as baking and sharing cookies with Ellis Square friends in Beverly.
- In Kindergarten, reading the book aloud as a class as well as in pairs.
- In 1st grade, looking at the picture book through the lens of windows and mirrors, asking students to see themselves and think about what it would be like to be a different person.
- In 2nd grade, using the Brain Frame model (an Architects for Learning method) to consider small moments – from waking up to getting to school to bedtime – students sequenced these moments and then, focusing on just one, created an illustration and writing piece.
- In 3rd grade, reading the book with 8th grade buddies and using discussion questions to spark conversations about themes.
- In Middle School, serving as the foundation for a year-long theme of “kindness and gratitude” including Thinkgive-inspired kindness challenges that encourage students to engage with their world and experience the impact of their actions.
- In 6th and 7th grade, discussing the text and illustrations and hosting a dialogue about the purpose of the book.
- In 8th grade, writing essays using Last Stop on Market Street as an exemplar and studying both expressed and implied meaning in the book.
Matt’s visit was a great culminating experience for this year’s One School, One Book program!
Throughout his presentation to Brookwood students, he touched on themes such as race, identity, beauty, community and intergenerational relationships. He urged Upper School students to “consider other possible paths—maybe something you’ve never seen anyone in your family do,” something he achieved when he was the first member of his family to attend college thanks to a basketball scholarship to the University of the Pacific in Northern California. “I didn’t fall for books until I was in college,” he said, “but once I did, it changed my life.” It was at the University of the Pacific where he was inspired to pursue a career path that was meaningful to him—rather than following the expectations, pressures or definitions that others had imposed on him.
Matt also visited the Saltonstall School in Salem to read excerpts from The Last Stop on Market Street and Love. His trip to Salem kicked off a collaboration between Brookwood and Saltonstall 2nd graders, which continues tomorrow as students join together to paint murals inspired by Matt’s books. Brookwood 2nd grade teacher Suzy Light noted that students in her class “are so excited to visit with new friends at Saltonstall, sharing a book they love.” The collaboration will focus on noticing the beauty in our neighborhoods, and students from each school will have the opportunity to share what makes their community special to them.
It’s a wonderful opportunity to connect and build relationships within our broader community.
Matt has authored six young adult novels including Mexican WhiteBoy, We Were Here and The Living, and four picture books including Last Stop on Market Street and Love. He received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and his BA from the University of the Pacific. Matt currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his family and shares his passion for creative writing by teaching and visiting schools throughout the country.