Friday, November 14, 2008

From Louise in Maine

Last year (2007), I had the good fortune of participating in a wonderful poetry panel at the annual American Library Association conference in Washington, D.C. One of my favorite parts was the poetry jam at the end when we provided poems tucked into tiny jam jars for session participants to read on a volunteer basis, connecting poems in spontaneous ways with each other. Well, lo and behold, a children’s librarian from Maine was in that audience, and she has taken our idea and run with it! Here’s an inspiring report from Louise Capizzo, Children's Librarian, Falmouth Memorial Library in Falmouth, Maine.

As soon as I returned from ALA that summer, I initiated a poetry moment at a summer rec. program for grades k-2 where I tell stories each summer. Using an old pickle jar I labeled, "Poetry Moment,” I took a few minutes during each session to share a poem. The kids loved the ceremony of me reaching into my bag, pulling out the jar and twisting it open. I used a variety of poems, mostly by Dennis Lee, Jack Prelutsky, Joyce Sidman, some by Valerie Worth. A book that was very popular (I had to get my own copy from is Ed Young's High on a Hill: Chinese Riddles. They LOVE trying to guess what he is describing in those few poetic sentences. This year marked my third year going to the rec. program. The children who had moved into grade 3 lobbied for me to read to them again. And, do you want to know why? They wanted the Poetry Moments! Honest!

I had such a good time with tremendous feedback from teachers and the high school students who help out that I encouraged my husband, John, to try it at his place of employment. He is a cook at a day care center in Portland, Maine. He is the only male at that center. I will describe the program I set up.

Once a week, the same day each week, at lunchtime John places a jar on every classroom’s lunch tray. The jar has his picture on it holding one of the jars. Inside the jar is a poem that John has selected. A different poem each week. The classroom teachers have been instructed to read the poem while children are eating so that they can relate the whole poetry experience with the food so that they connect the poem with John. When all the food and dishes are placed on the trays to go back to the kitchen, the poetry jar goes along too. I don't think children are exposed to poetry very often, especially the very young. I felt that since John was the only male in the whole building, the children might be more receptive to liking poetry, if it came from someone they love because they love his food. All the classrooms, from the youngest to the 5 year olds will all be getting a poem. On the day the jars go out, John will also have a copy of the poem up in the kitchen so children walking thru on their way home can share the poem once again their parents. He's excited, the teachers are excited, and I am too.

Today was the first day John sent his poetry jars around to the classrooms. It was a big hit. One of the classrooms memorized the poem and after lunch, came down to his kitchen and recited the poem to him, complete with hand motions. The poem is "Way down south where the bananas grow, a flea stepped on an elephant's toe..."

My husband has been passing out a poem a week to his day care kids with great success. Then, while he was on vacation the classroom wrote John a poem because they missed his weekly poetry jars.

A Poem For John

John in the kitchen

John in the hall

We love John

He's the best cook of all!

John in the kitchen

John in a swirl
We think John's
The best cook in the world!

John in the kitchen

John in the cellar,

We think John's

A most wonderful feller!

Isn’t Louise’s story terrific? I love how it takes poetry into all kinds of places in unexpected ways and with such instantaneous results! Go, Louise!

For more Poetry Friday fun go to Yat-Yee Chong. Enjoy!

Picture credit: From Louise: “Here is my jar that represents my Poetry Moment. It isn't a pickle jar as I thought (the green top made me think it was) It is a Sunsweet Fat Free Lighter Bake Butter & Oil Replacement jar. Yes, Poetry is Fat Free!”


Yat-Yee said...

Thanks for sharing the story. It's amazing what even a little bit of art can do for human beings.

laurasalas said...

What a fantastic story! Thanks for sharing. This gives me all sorts of ideas!