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In this blog entry, I continue to discuss Children’s Literature in Action, an invaluable text by Sophia Vardell. The chapter on poetry is particularly rich in ideas for practical use by librarians who work closely with children and tweens. Here are some ideas for activities and displays gleaned from the Poetry Chapter:

  1. Celebrate birthdays of poets (I can see doing this with both famous and less well-known poets) by sharing a sample poem or book by the “birthday poet” on that day.
  2. Organize poet visits to one’s library.
  3. Choose a variety of poets to highlight on a rotating basis in a display.
  4. On page 135, she explores an idea for promoting poetry, entitled “Living Anthology,” in which one takes ones favorite poems from the collection and places them around the entire building. This idea, given by poet Georgia Head, can be used effectively by both school and public libraries that serve elementary and middle school children and tweens. In fact this is an activity idea I plan to put into practice during National Poetry Month this coming April.
  5. At my library, I have a group of tweens (mostly sixth and seventh graders) who participate in a weekly Creative Writing workshop. In the first week of April, I will ask the creative writing tweens to explore and find their favorite poems from our existing collection.  After having a couple of weeks to explore poetry and time to pick out some of their favorite poems, we will create poetry “posters” to place around the library, complete with a cover of the book that the poem was taken from, and an invitation to other kids, teens and perhaps even adults to submit their most loved poems for a similar display as well!
In addition to these simple and yet ingenious ideas for drawing attention to the poetry collection, this chapter’s “Authors in Action” section (written by poet Kristine George, p. 120) discusses various ways of celebrating children’s poetry in the virtual world. On her website, Ms. George has created a space where librarians and educators can discuss various ways they incorporate and enjoy poetry in their libraries and classrooms. In conjunction with the publication of her book Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems, and as a way of involving middle grade children in discussions about middle school life, Ms. George instituted a forum entitled Middle School Musings. Originally she expected just a few students, but thousands of tweens have weighed in on their experiences and have also participated in writing and photography challenges as well.
In this chapter author Sylvia Vardell also takes time to explore and explain the different poetic elements (rhythm, rhyme, sound, language, imagery, and emotion). She uses this discussion to elucidate how to evaluate poems and poetry books for children. She also discusses strategies for sharing poems with kids, including reading aloud, highlighting various forms of reading aloud. Below I have highlighted several of these strategies:
  • Chorus reading – An adult reads, and children echo a reoccurring line or word.
  • Call and response – The group is divided into two, each take turns reading lines in a kind of ‘back and forth’
  • Line-around – individual kids volunteer (they should not be forced) to read a single line… Ideally, the whole poem gets read line by line in this way.
This chapter not only leaves one dizzy with possibilities for connecting kids and tweens to poetry, but also makes clear the pivotal role poetry plays not only in “required reading” but in reading that children and tweens choose for pleasure, and encourages librarians to re-connect to the elemental power of poetry to draw one through sound and rhythm as well as emotion to reawaken us to how important this genre is in the formative years, and how crucial it is for children to encounter poetry in a positive, enjoyable way, rather than as more literary drudgery foisted upon them through school.
December 2020