When Newport Beach mom Cindy Muchnick was approached to write a book about study skills for students, she knew her teenage son would be the perfect co-author.
"Justin told me my last book needed some improvements," said Muchnick, a mother of four and the author of eight books. "So I knew he would be great for this one."
Packed with more than 200 success tips for students in middle school through graduate school, Straight-A Study Skills is influenced by Muchnick's background as a college admission counselor and Justin's experience as an accomplished student. It was released in January.
"She would type, and I would comment, edit and review pages, restructure, and add new ideas that built upon some of her philosophies regarding study skills," Justin, a 15-year-old freshman at Phillips Academy Andover in Massachusetts, said. "Then I would type, and she would read over my shoulder. It was give and take, back and forth."
The book writing process wasn't traditional. Mother and son wrote the book during late-night sessions in their home office.
"We stayed up late at night when his other siblings went to bed," Muchnick said. "We hammered through page after page."
And sometimes they didn't see eye to eye.
"Sometimes we argued or disagreed, but overall the book is both of ours," Justin said. "I guess you could say I brought the authentic student perspective to the book while she focused on the adult/educator point of view."
In Straight A-Study Skills, students will learn why it is beneficial to use a study group, tools for effective time management, why you shouldn't cram for a test, tips for effective social studying, and how to balance extra-curricular activities. Justin said his favorite chapter is number three, which focuses on building teacher relationships.
"Many students forget to nurture their relationships with teachers outside of the classroom in office hours, review sessions, or just at the lunchroom or on the way to or from class," Justin said. "Teachers are incredible mentors and advisors, and there is much to be learned from them that isn't in the lesson plan."
And although the publisher was a little hesitant at first when Muchnick suggested Justin as a co-author, they were pleased with the finished product.
"At first they wanted to downplay his age, but they loved the idea of incorporating a student's voice," Muchnick said.
The book has received positive reviews from several schools.
"There are hundreds of pieces of good advice, and I expect parents and children will end up highlighting a dozen or so that they want to focus on," Christoph Guttentag, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Duke University, said in a released statement. "Taking even some of this advice to heart, and acting on it, will help any student get more out of school."
The book has summaries for each chapter, and Justin said it is "not a hard read.” Instead it’s "a useful reference guide that students can refer back to over and over again for reminders or refreshers," he said.
"If kids can walk away with a few of the tools to be successful students, then we did our job," Muchnick added.
Cindy and Justin Muchnick will be signing copies of their book on Sunday, March 30 at noon at Barnes and Noble located at 901 B South Coast Drive at Metro Pointe in Costa Mesa.