What do these people have in common?
Nikki Grimes, Mary Ann Hoberman, X. J. Kennedy, Eloise Greenfield, Barbara Esbensen, Valerie Worth, Arnold Adoff, Lilian Moore, John Ciardi, Eve Merriam, Myra Cohn Livingston, Karla Kuskin, Aileen Fisher, and David McCord…
Each has received the National Council of Teachers of English Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Now it’s time to add the name of LEE BENNETT HOPKINS to that distinguished roster!
In 1977, NCTE established this award to honor a living American poet or anthologist for his or her lifetime achievement in works for children ages 3–13. The award was given annually until 1982, at which time it was decided that the award would be given every three years. NCTE wanted to recognize and foster excellence in children's poetry by encouraging its publication and by exploring ways to acquaint teachers and children with poetry through such means as publications, programs, and displays. As one means of accomplishing this goal, NCTE established its Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children to honor a poet for his or her aggregate work. The “aggregate work” of Lee Bennett Hopkins has been tremendous in both breadth and depth, as both poet and anthologist. Let’s consider just a few highlights of his extensive contribution.
There are several anthologists who have established excellent reputations for compiling numerous high quality collections of poetry for children. Lee Bennett Hopkins may be the most prolific of all, with over 100 books of poetry to his credit as both an anthologist and as a writer since 1969. 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), Spectacular Science: A Book of Poems (Simon & Schuster 1999), 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, and Spectacular Science (Simon & Schuster 1999) includes science-related poems by writers from Carl Sandburg to Rebecca Kai Dotlich. He has also created an ongoing series of “I Can Read” collections of poetry that are perfect for young children who are beginning to read on their own.
Lee Bennett Hopkins has also authored autobiographical writings. Two books about his own life and work include Writing Bug (Richard C. Owens 1993), part of a fun series that features single titles on 35 different authors, and Been To Yesterdays: Poems Of A Life (Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press 1995) told through poems.
Lee Establishes Two Poetry Awards
Called the “The Johnny Appleseed of contemporary children’s poetry,” 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 (which was first awarded in 1992 to Sing to the Sun by Ashley Bryan (HarperCollins), 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. This award was first given in 1995 to Deborah Chandra for Rich Lizard And Other Poems (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Other winners have included Kristine O’Connell George, Craig Crist-Evans, and Lindsay Lee Johnson. I’ve blogged about the most recent recipients of both these awards in the past and try to keep you posted on the latest recipient each year.
Lee is often a regular presence on the conference circuit and has spoken at countless schools and libraries, too. He was at last year’s NCTE Poetry Blast in New York, for example, and I was tickled pink to bring him to Texas for our own Poetry Round Up at the annual conference of the Texas Library Association. His readings are always fun, moving, and inspiring and he motivates his audience to want to get on board and share poetry with the kids in their lives.
Professional Resource Books
Lee Bennett Hopkins has also been a major writer of professional books on poetry and literature for children. These include several gems such as Pass the Poetry Please (HarperCollins 1972, 1986, 1998), Books Are by People (1969), More Books by More People: Interviews with Sixty-Five Authors of Books for Children (1974), Do You Know What Day Tomorrow Is?: A Teacher's Almanac (1975), and Pauses; Autobiographical Reflections of 101 Creators of Children’s Books (HarperCollins 1995). He also wrote regular columns on poetry for Creative Classroom magazine and Teaching K-8. He was also kind enough to read and promote my own professional resource books (Poetry Aloud Here; Poetry People), offering poems and essays and endorsements. He’s as generous as he is prolific!
Award Presentation Coming
Lee will receive his NCTE award next November at the 99th NCTE Annual Convention to be held in Philadelphia in November 19-24, 2009. Mark your calendars now for Sat., Nov. 21—I think that’s when Lee will be formally presented the award at the Books for Children Luncheon. In the mean time, congratulations, Lee!
Poetry Friday is hosted by Lisa Chellman this week. Happy Thanksgiving, all!
Picture credit: www.ysu.edu