Rock the Word Authors Visit Cedar Falls Schools This Week

Rock the Word Authors Visit Cedar Falls Schools This Week

On September 14-15 Cedar Falls Schools will host Rock the Word. Rock the Word is an intensive and hands on approach, with five multiple award-winning authors. They work with students to harness their creative voice. The authors share a passion for writing, reading and reaching into any student and elevating their innate storytelling abilities.

The authors will visit Peet Junior High and Holmes Junior High with an all-school assembly followed by author sessions for each grade, every student in grades 7-9 will have the opportunity to learn from some of the best authors writing literature for young adults today. All of the authors are passionate advocates for teen voice and empowerment. University of Northern Iowa students in the English teaching program will be on hand to assist at both junior high schools.

Rock The Word is designed to light kids on fire. The program is designed to address topics such as bullying, belonging, and channeling voice onto the page. This is an opportunity to explore topics that are relevant to youth to reach them where they are. The most reluctant reader and writer will be changed after time spent with these authors because their approach is authentic and engaging.

E.E. Charlton-Trujillo embarked on an unprecedented book tour in the summer of 2013. Inspired by a teen without creative mentorship, she wondered what the impact would be to hold free, creative writing workshops and discussions with youth on the fringe across America for several months. From this experience, she began developing Rock The Word. The idea is to meet young people where they are at that moment, and take words and make them their power. The way young people love music such as hip hop, rock ’n roll, pop, or classical, Charlton-Trujillo soon realized that young people had so much to say…they wanted to Rock the Word but just didn’t know how to get there.

On Wednesday evening, they will be at the University of Northern Iowa for a free film screening of “At-Risk Summer” sponsored by UNI’s Department of Language and Literature at 7:30 p.m. at the Communication Arts Center, 108 Parliamentary Room. University Book and Supply will have books available for an author signing that evening as well.

This visit is funded by the Max and Helen Guernsey Foundation and sponsored by UNI’s Department of Language and Literature.

“So, this is all Matt de la Peña's fault,” jokes Mrs. Jennifer Paulsen, Instructional Coach for Cedar Falls Schools. “But when I look back on the events that led up to this visit, meeting Mr. de la Peña at NCTE in Boston may have been the catalyst. I fell in love with his book ‘The Living ‘while stranded at the airport, Stephanie Itzen, the teacher librarian at Holmes Junior High, suggested we have him come to Iowa, and through the beauty of Facebook, we had an agreement. A year later, after a lot of planning, we had a wonderful visit with him in Cedar Falls. Thanks, Matt, for getting the awesomeness rolling!”

“The simple power of an author visit lasts far beyond the initial event, especially with a writer and speaker of exceptional power such as Mr. de la Peña. Because I'll show up to listen to him anywhere, anytime, when I saw he was part of a panel Empowering the Voice of the At-risk Learner at NCTE in Minneapolis last November, it was a no-brainer that I would attend. Listening to this rock star panel of authors including A.S. King, Ellen Hopkins, Meg Medina, E.E. Charlton-Trujillo, and C.G. Watson was inspiring and uplifting. What if we brought their idea of ‘creative revolution’ to our students?”

“The idea bloomed further that night at the screening of E.E. Charlton-Trujillo's film ‘At-Risk Summer’, which features interviews with many of the above authors and details her unusual book tour for ‘Fat Angie’ working with at-risk youth around the United States, empowering their voices through artistic expression. As Abby Hendrickson, Teacher Librarian from Peet Junior High, and I visited with the authors at the reception, including C.G. Watson, the idea of a creative writing celebration, which I had already been tossing around in my head, formed in our conversation. We remained in touch with the authors over the winter and sought funding sources.”

“The founders of Never Counted Out which is dedicated to empowering youth voice through the arts, worked with Hendrickson and I to prepare a dream grant proposal: five authors meeting with all junior high students in Cedar Falls. I figured we could always scale it back. But the Max and Helen Guernsey Charitable Foundation in Waterloo generously granted full funding for the dream. We are so grateful to their executive board for seeing the power in our plan and providing this amazing experience for our students.”