"Just you and me, Little Poem, mí amigo. " (J. Johnson)This was the poem artfully written at the top of Jane's responses to my interview questions. And, it's the reason I wanted to interview her for my blog. She loves poetry. Poetry is a part of her life.
Jane is one of my lifelong friends . . . one of those special friends that spans time . . . a friend since high school. Not only does she love poetry, but she's also a talented artist, avid reader, and a school librarian.
National Poetry Month reminds teachers of the importance of including poetry in our teaching, not just for a month, but throughout the year. So, how can we get children interested in reading poetry?
Some insights and ideas from my interview with Jane:
How did you first get interested in reading poetry?
I first started reading poetry in high school. I had a job at a small restaurant, and on my breaks, I would go into the small independent bookstore up the street, and peruse the poetry section. I discovered e.e. cummings, and fell in love! I bought every paperback book of his poetry with my tips. Then I started reading Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson. Poetry became an open door to other academic subjects, and I began to develop intellectual confidence. In addition, I was artsy, so I began putting poems in my collages. Poetry and art became lifelines to me in the time of adolescent uncertainty.
How do we get children interested in reading and appreciating poetry?
I think children will be open to poetry as soon as they are exposed to it. My suggestion is to start reading poems to children when they are babies! Read the same poems to them over and over, so the rhythms and rhymes become familiar. Then poetry becomes comfortable for them before they can intellectually fear it.
What poems and/or poets do you read to elementary school children?
I read both fun and classic poems to the students I work with. I want them to be exposed to both forms. For fun, I read Douglas Florian, Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, and Bobbi Katz. The classic poets I choose are Langston Hughes, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and Rita Dove for starters.
What activities do you do during National Poetry Month to promote the appreciation of poetry?
I hold 2 events during National Poetry Month for students in our library.
First, Poetry Café, in which students memorize a poem as their ticket to attend the Poetry Café. I decorate the library up to look like a café, and I have volunteers who listen to the students recite their poems. It's a magical day.
The 2nd event is "National Poem in Your Pocket Day." This is a national celebration of poetry that simply asks each person to carry a poem around and share it that day. I print up age-appropriate poems on bright colored paper for all students and staff and pass them out that day. We read them to each other, and encourage the students to take the poems home and read them to their families. This year the date was April 26th. The students love this event, and many come in asking for additional copies of a poem that one of their classmates read to them. The whole point of the event is to read poetry, so this exposes the students to more poetry. I have plenty of extra copies available, and I love their enthusiasm!
Do you have anything else you'd like to share?
Finally, I'll share a few of my all time favorite poems for children:
"First the rain came down to soak us,
And now, before the eye can focus,
Crocus!" (L. Rogers)
"Oh dear, this poem is very weak,
It can hardly stand up straight.
Which comes from eating junk food,
And going to bed too late." (R. McGough)
"'Stay!' said the child.
The bird said, 'No,
My wing has mended, I must go.
I shall come back to see you though,
One day.'" (N. Lewis)
A spring collage by Jane
You can see more of Jane's art at Nomadic Notebook: Jane-Art.
My hope is that you will be inspired to continue reading poetry throughout the year to the children in your class. I know I am. Thank you, Jane!