Thursday, January 18, 2007

Nikki Grimes interview published

As I’ve mentioned before, Nikki Grimes was recently presented the National Council of Teachers of English award for Excellence in Poetry for Children for her entire body of writing. It was an honor to present her this award as I served as co-chair of the committee. One other privilege I enjoyed was the opportunity to interview her for an article for the NCTE journal, Language Arts, along with my co-chair, Peggy Oxley. Well, the article has now been published and the full text is online and free to NCTE members at:
Or look for the January, 2007 issue of Language Arts (V. 84, N. 3), pages 281-285 at your area library. Nikki was very open in talking about her childhood, early influences on her writing, the story behind the creation of Danitra Brown, and what receiving the award means to her. Check it out! Here’s one nugget to whet your appetite:

Do you have any ideas about guiding teachers and librarians in sharing your books with kids or promoting poetry in general?

“Well, that’s why I have teacher’s guides on my web site ( The field is so rich now. You can essentially find poetry on any subject that kids would be interested in if you just look for it. I enjoy talking to teachers and librarians, trying to get them beyond feelings of intimidation. Really giving them permission to explore poetry. Because for the most part, it was presented to them so badly that they are either afraid of it or think of it in terms of “shoulds.” “You ‘should’ like this poem.” And I always say, “Don’t ‘should’ all over me!” Just find poetry that you like, that you love, that you get, that you’re excited about, because your students are going to pick up on your attitude. I don’t care what you share with them, if you have a good attitude about it, they’re going to respond to it well. Choose poetry that is going to engage them. Never mind about dissection and all of that. That can come later. And yes, the classics are important, but the classics can wait. Dissection can wait. First, you want to get them hooked on poetry as a genre. ‘Cause once they are, try to keep them FROM reading! And once teachers have this “permission,” they go back to the classroom and say, “Okay, let’s try it!” Then I get these emails: “You know what? I tried it. It worked!” They’re excited. I think they were just waiting for permission and a way in. I’m not surprised at the wonderful results they’re having, but they are. Poetry is just natural for children. It’s part of their lives! From the ABC’s to Mother Goose to patty cake to jump rope rhymes, poetry is already a part of their lives, so you’re just building on that foundation. It’s already there.”


Liz said...

I love this... it's such a vibrant way to look at poetry and keeping it fun and alive. Banish the shoulds and start talking in coulds!

Liz said...

I love this. Such a vibrant way to talk about poetry and keeping it fun and alive. Banish the shoulds and start talking in coulds!