by Lacy Compton
As all teachers know (and most have experienced), kids can surprise you with their secret lives. Author Matt de la Peña shares his own inspiring story of his early days as a secret classroom poet, and later, a quiet reader, in his article, "Sometimes The 'Tough Teen' Is Quietly Writing Stories," part of NPR's Code Switch series.
One of the things that struck me about de la Peña's article was his discussion of how multicultural literature allowed him to first open his personal barriers to reading. Having never finished a book in high school, it wasn't until his sophomore year of college that a teacher handed him a book that would change his life--a book that surprised de la Peña for the connections he made to the narrator. (His story of reading that book is too good to divulge just what the title was.)
There are multiple resources for teachers wanting to incorporate multicultural literature in their courses or classroom libraries (the article names several excellent writers, for starters), including these:
- Multicultural Fiction for Teenagers--Madison Public Library (includes a great annotated list)
- Multicultural Teen Book Lists--Guides at Contra Costa County Library (has many titles traditionally listed in this category along with an excellent sidebar of lesser-known staff picks)
Another resource that might engage your reluctant readers/writers is John Green's Nerdfighters community, which de la Peña cites as an avenue for kids to be proud of their love of reading and writing (but which he acknowledges is a pathway not always open to young students of diverse backgrounds, who often feel they have to hide their more academic pursuits).