Dear Art Rodriguez,
We are encouraging students to expand their thinking and knowledge by reading, and to have a choice in what they are reading. Your first book, East Side Dreams, had been a popular book with our students. It isn't only popular because of the descriptive life style, but what it offers in the way of modeling what a person can make of their life, in spite of difficult circumstances.
We have found that students who have said that they never have read a complete book before, have taken your book and read it from cover to cover. This is a milestone for a person in high school who has never before read a novel. When we hear students say, "I want to read another of these books," or "What else did he write?" we know that the door to reading for pleasure is being unlocked. What better goal for us as educators than to have students develop a love for reading.
After students read a book, we have them do a report or a book review to share with other students. What a joy it is for us to hear students asking other students to let him check out the book after they finish reading it. Books like East Side Dreams seem to hook our kids on reading and they are asking to read more. What more could we ask?
Gail DeRosset, Classroom teacher, Muriel Wright High School, San Jose, CA
Dear Mr. Rodriguez,
You are indeed one of my heroes and I cannot tell you how often I have thought of you. A year ago I received an email at my school with names of contemporary writers. We bought your book: EAST SIDE DREAMS and I read it to the class. We each identified with you in different ways. We cried, laughed and learned from you, in different ways. At the time, I thought my students were challenging and had difficult lives. Little did I know that my job as an educator and a counselor would take me to meet more challenging students! I am presently working at Crossroads. It is a Community Day High School, in SJUSD. The students that I have face many trials and tribulations. They are lovable, special, fragile and tough... all in one. I will only have them for a year before they return to their perspective high schools. Their needs are many! Everyone of them are learning from their mistakes and then they will move on! AND then... lead productive, successful lives as responsible members of society. You have been one of my very favorite heroes. You have had a serious impact in their minds and lives. I read a story a day to them and then they write in their journals. You are already, one of our friends!
Sincerely, Elizabeth Bliss, Program Coordinator Crossroads
Art Rodriguez's inspiring stories
As an English teacher at Branham High School, I have found Art's books to be excellent sources of inspiration in my classroom for several reasons. First of all Art's story about his difficult, young life in East San Jose, holds my student's attention. They can also easily identify with the struggles of Art's teen years because some of them are going through the same struggles. Even though Art's teen years were back in the sixties, his style of writing hooks students imaginations as they put themselves in Art's world - a world not so different from their own. Art discusses the timeless themes of trouble with parents, issues with authority figures, loyalty among friends and the confusion surrounding moral choices for teens.
Whether students are highly skilled readers or reluctant readers, Art's book holds their interest and inspires them to become better readers and better people.
Joanne Whitaker, Branham High School English Teacher. CA