Wear something with pockets today, and put some miscellaneous item (like keys, a coin, a paperclip, etc.) in your pocket. Reach into your pocket and slowly bring that item out. Then share the following poem by today’s birthday poet, Lee Bennett Hopkins.
by Lee Bennett Hopkins
A rusty door key,
A part of a tool,
A dead bee I was saving
to take into school;
A crust of pizza,
Sand from the short,
A piece of lead pipe,
An old apple core;
My library card,
A small model rocket—
from Me, Myself, and I (1995)
Invite the children to reach into their pockets, pull out something they can share and tell the story behind it or write a poem about it.
Lee Bennett Hopkins may be the most prolific poetry anthologist of all, with over 100 books of poetry to his credit as both an anthologist and as a writer. Hopkins has also nurtured many new talents in poetry, commissioning up-and-coming poets to write poems for anthologies he compiles.
A few of his most popular titles include Good Books, Good Times (HarperTrophy, 2000), Opening Days: Sports Poems (Harcourt, 1996), School Supplies: A Book of Poems (Simon & Schuster, 1996), My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States (Simon & Schuster, 2000) and Days to Celebrate: A Full Year of Poetry, People, Holidays, History, Fascinating Facts, and More (HarperCollins, 2005) Teachers and librarians find Hopkins’ work helpful because so many of his anthologies are organized around themes or topics that lend themselves to teaching school subject areas. For example, Hand in Hand: An American History through Poetry (Simon & Schuster, 1994) offers a chronological view of American history through poetry. Or try Hopkins’ collection, Spectacular Science (Simon & Schuster, 1999) which includes science-related poems by writers from Carl Sandburg to Rebecca Kai Dotlich.
Hopkins has also authored biographical and autobiographical writings. Two books about his own life and work include Writing Bug (Richard C. Owens, 1993) and Been To Yesterdays: Poems Of A Life (Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press, 1995) told through poems. Two collections about poets and poetry teaching include Pass the Poetry Please (HarperCollins, 1986) and Pauses; Autobiographical Reflections of 101 Creators of Children’s Books (HarperCollins, 1995).
Called the “The Johnny Appleseed of contemporary children’s poetry,” Lee Bennett Hopkins established two major awards to encourage recognition of poetry for young people: the annual Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award for a single volume of poetry, and the Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award, presented every three years by the International Reading Association to a new poet with two or fewer poetry books published.
One of my favorite Lee-isms is this one: Avoid the “DAM approach” to poetry = Don't force kids to DISSECT, ANALYZE OR MEMORIZE poetry. Not that children aren’t capable of thinking critically or remembering favorites, but our baggage about forcing certain expectations can get in the way of children’s experiences with poetry. Amen!