Matt de la Pena wrote a piece recently about the struggle to find oneself when growing up in a tough environment. The author, himself, grew up in a rough neighborhood, in a Mexican family, which did not necessarily support a young man to read and write. He often admits to the fact that he didn’t finish reading an entire book until he was a sophomore in college. But once that connection formed, he was hooked.
He discusses how “the most difficult definition to break free from is self-definition.” He understands how your surroundings can sometimes dictate the choices you make and the way you present yourself, but there is always a way. He encourages young adults, especially those in urban environments, to find a way to “break fee,” even it it is in secret.
And this in turn should translate to the adults around these teenagers. Sometimes it is not easy for young adults to embrace their “nerdier side.” Sometimes they hide this passion within. Sometimes the wonderful writer or the voracious reader is not the typical straight-A student. And us, as adults, especially those in the education realm, need to tap into that hidden love of the written word. Foster relationships, encourage discovery, and learn to push them to accept what they love–and who they are.
Matt de la Pena is an amazing author, not only because he has an amazing talent of writing, but he knows how to connect to his readers by presenting ‘honest’ characters. He allows his characters to be who they are, because a lot of the time, his readers may not be able to do that for themselves.
As he states at the end of his article, “reading can change lives,” so allow the “non-traditional reader” to change their life. Encourage and support every opportunity.