Monday, October 23, 2006

International School Library Day

Today is International School Library Day, a good day to celebrate the role of libraries in our schools. Professor Stephen Krashen, national expert on reading and language learning, noted that “Library quality, both in terms of better staffing and better collections, is related to reading achievement.” Kids who have access to books become better readers. But not every school has a library—in this country and around the world. The International Board on Books for Young People works to promote books and reading globally ( and our U.S. section supports those efforts ( For example, our section donated $15,000 to tsunami relief efforts last year to bring books and rebuild libraries in that stricken area. I also recently learned about another organization committed to building libraries for children around the world, Room to Read ( And you may know of other similar initiatives. Next time you’re at a school library (on election day, perhaps?), take a moment to appreciate what you may have in your community and see what you can do to help out. Even donating money for one new book or magazine subscription is appreciated. And to celebrate the power of libraries in children’s lives, here’s a special poem:

by Valerie Worth

No need even
To take out
A book: only
Go inside
And savor
The heady
Dry breath of
Ink and paper,
Or stand and
Listen to the
Silent twitter
Of a billion
Tiny busy
Black words.

From All the Small Poems and Fourteen More. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1994, p. 163.

For more poems about libraries, check out my article, “A place for poetry: Celebrating the library in poetry” in the most recent issue of Children and Libraries published by the American Library Association.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Teen Read Week Oct. 15-21

Coming up next week is national Teen Read Week established by the American Library Association in 1998 with the purpose of encouraging teens to:
* Make time to read for the fun of it
* Use their local library to discover their interests
* Get reading materials and participate in events at their school or public library

This year’s theme is “Get Active @ Your Library” and there is a rich resource of information on the ALA web site:

In 2003, the theme for the week was “Slammin @ your library” with a focus on poetry for teens. Lots of helpful information about YA poetry is archived on that site:

Meanwhile, here’s a poem ABOUT teenagers by Pat Mora, one of my favorites. It's from the parent perspective, so it really speaks to me just now (as the parent of two young adults).

By Pat Mora

One day they disappear
into their rooms.
Doors and lips shut
and we become strangers
in our own home.

I pace the hall, hear whispers,
A code I knew but can’t remember
Mouthed by mouths I taught to speak.

Years later the door opens.
I see faces I once held,
Open as sunflowers in my hands. I see
Familiar skin now stretched on long bodies
That move past me
Almost like pearls

The poem can be found in Echoes: Great Poets Inspiring Young Writers and online at:
ALSO: Pat Mora has a wonderful YA poetry collection entitled, My Own True Name: New and Selected Poems for Young Adults worth checking out.

Don’t fall prey to “ephebiphobia,” the fear of teenagers! Share a poem with a teen you love or smile and say “hi” to the teens you pass next week.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Autumn Leaves poem

Fall is here and the signs are all around us, even here in Texas. I saw that this week’s cover of The New Yorker magazine spoofs the “natural” hues of Vermont’s changing leaves—suggesting they are actually painted on for the tourists. But I love the gold and red hues that appear in the trees as the weather gets cooler. Here’s an older poem that captures this transition beautifully.

Autumn Leaves
by Leland B. Jacobs

1      Green leaves,
2      Yellow leaves,
3      Red leaves, and brown,
ALL   Falling,
ALL   Falling,
ALL   Blanketing the town.
4      Oak leaves,
5      Maple leaves,
6      Apple leaves, and pear,
ALL   Falling,
ALL   Whispering,
ALL   “Autumn’s in the air!”
7      Big leaves,
8      Little leaves,
9      Pointed leaves, and round,
ALL   Falling,
ALL   Nestling,
ALL   Carpeting the ground.

from: Jacobs, Leland B. 1993. Just Around the Corner: Poems about the Seasons. New York: Henry Holt.

*I've suggested a format for reading the poem aloud with a group of 9 or more. Invite 9 volunteers to read single lines (labeled 1 through 9) and then everyone chimes in on the lines marked "ALL." Practice once and then read and perform with gusto. For added impact, add gesturing (falling), whispering, and leaf cut outs or real fall leaves!

*Use this poem in conjunction with Lois Ehlert’s fantastic picture book, Leaf Man (Harcourt, 2005) and take a walk, look for fallen leaves, and create your own leaf people.