ALA Annual 2016

Matt de la Pena and reading

Matt de la Pena’s Newbery award acceptance speech at #alaac16 was amazing. There were so many moments of revelation, insight, and vulnerability that tears were rolling down my face. I was not alone. What moved me the most (besides the fact that he immediately stepped down from the podium gave the award to his mother) was his articulation of what reading is and how he grew up thinking that he was not a reader but that in actuality he was reading all the time, not necessarily words on a page (though he did love Basketball Digest) but instead people’s expressions, the words his father didn’t say, the dance of bodies on the basketball court, the laughter of new romance. I grew up reading books voraciously because I was lonely but what Matt de la Pena allowed me to understand tonight is that I also grew up fervently reading people, too– how people loved each other or didn’t, and what different silences meant.  One of my favorite books as a child was Harriet the Spy. I identified with Harriet’s intense desire to watch and document and now realize that she, too, was reading her world and searching constantly for clues.   Most importantly, clues that would allow her to make meaning out of parental distance and disconnection. I am grateful for this way of thinking about reading because it allows me to serve my young patrons better and to understand that when a student is quiet in their own observation of the moment, I don’t need to rush in with a book recommendation because they are actually reading. Reading deeply.

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