Students’ Preparation

Librarian Julie Stivers worked with the students on two different fronts to prepare for Matt de la Pena’s visit.

 Fourteen students were selected to participate in the Writers’ Workshop based on a variety of factors, including demonstrated interest and teacher input. To prepare for Matt’s workshops, Julie worked with the 14 selected students for several months in an elective where she created a ‘book-club’ atmosphere to facilitate meaningful discussion of Matt’s novels.  The 7th grade writers read The Living, while the 8th grade writers focused on Mexican White Boy.

In addition to preparing the Writers’ Workshop students, Julie wanted to expose every Mount Vernon student to Matt’s work through watching interviews, learning about his Newbery win, and reading and discussing Last Stop on Market Street.  Additionally, she worked with 6th and 7th grade students as they read and discussed Matt’s picture book A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis, and his short story, Believing in Brooklyn.

The 8th graders took the deepest dive into Matt’s works!  8th Grade Language Arts Teacher Jan Morris and Julie worked with students every week reading, listening to the audio book, and discussing The Living.  In the week leading up to Matt’s visit, Jan spent every day reading The Living with her 8th graders!  Julie and Jan will continue to work with the 8th graders on The Living until the end of the year.

As a result of this preparation, the 14 workshop students got double exposure to Matt–working with Julie both during their elective and their Language Arts classes.

Below are some examples of the work students produced in preparation for Matt’s visit:


Students experimented with shapes to create their version of the cover for Last Stop on Market Street.


Cover artwork for The Living on display in the halls of Mt. Vernon Middle School.



Students engaged with Matt via Twitter before his visit.


Follow along with the students’ preparations, experiences, and ongoing Writers Community at #mdlPwriters