Thursday, September 24, 2015

Let’s Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month

We’re devoting this post to National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 - October 15) celebrated in the poem, "I Can Ask and I Can Learn" by Janet Wong from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Pomelo Books). Please join me as we chat with Janet about National Hispanic Heritage Month resources, diversity in children’s literature, insider/outsider perspectives, and more.

SV: We have many wonderful Hispanic poets in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations—Alma Flor Ada, Francisco X. Alarcón, Jorge Argueta, Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, F. Isabel Campoy, Margarita Engle, Pat Mora, Libby Martinez, and René Saldaña, Jr.—so please share with us: Janet, why did you write the poem celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month?

JW: Originally, as you know, I didn’t plan to write it. I hoped that Alma Flor Ada and Isabel Campoy would collaborate on it. They helped us with so much of the book—from connecting us with a translator to vetting poems to writing poems on being bilingual, all in just a few months—but then they went on a long vacation in Australia and I felt sheepish about asking for yet another thing. At the same time I started thinking: why does it need to be written by a Hispanic poet? Shouldn’t we ALL want to learn about Hispanic history and culture?

SV: True, but how does that fit in with the current thinking of many people on insider/outsider perspectives and diversity—the question of “who owns this story?”

JW: I think it’s shortsighted to define “insiders” merely in biological terms. If we want all children to learn about each other, then we need to allow all writers to write about everything, as long as they approach their subjects with passion, research, and respect. And the corollary is that kids need to be encouraged to read everything that interests them. If you have a white kid who is fascinated with Hispanic culture—great! An Asian student who loves reading about black history? Outstanding! This is the way we’ll achieve cross-cultural understanding and end racism.

SV: And here is Janet's poem (in English AND in Spanish):

SV: Do you have recommendations for further reading for teachers interested in using your poem to spark a discussion for National Hispanic Heritage Month?

JW: Yes! One book that I was reading while I wrote this poem—for my work as last year’s chair of the Notable Books for a Global Society—was Larry Dane Brimner’s Strike! The Farm Workers’ Fight for Their Rights (Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills), one of our NBGS selections. Some additional books on the subject of Hispanic contributions to labor reform on farms are:

Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers by Sarah Warren, illus. by Robert Casilla (Cavendish, 2012) 
Side by Side/Lado a lado: The Story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez/La historia de Dolores Huerta y Cesar Chavez by Monica Brown, illustrated by Joe Cepeda 

César: Sí, Se Puede! Yes, We Can! by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, illustrated by David Diaz (Cavendish, 2004) 

You can find some background discussion about the role that the song “De colores” played in the farmworkers’ movement here

“Kathy Murguía: I remember singing De Colores at the weekly Friday night strike meetings that were held in Delano . . . Every meeting ended with us joining hands and singing De Colores, which enhanced a sense of community, of being connected in a struggle for justice. We continued to sing it in the decades following those early meetings, during Union events and other gatherings, often as a closing. The rooster, the hen, the chicks that sing, the great loves of many colors—these images brought such joy, such pleasure and lastly for those who sang it, such hope . . . While the lyrics don't speak of social justice, it is a song of the season of springtime and beauty, of life and colors—and we were all kinds of different colors. I believe as we sang, our hearts were longing for the beauty that comes with gentle love and justice.” 
There are many versions of “De colores” on YouTube, but here is one favorite, sung by Joan Baez (with lyrics). 

SV: How can we make sure that students appreciate the wide variety of Hispanic and Latino experiences, and not just those of farmworkers? 

JW: I would share Yes! We Are Latinos! by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy, illustrated by David Diaz (Charlesbridge, 2013). Tie into this theme by starting with a poem and a nonfiction piece on farmworkers (“My Name Is Julio”  in a section on Migrant Farmworkers, pages 50-57), but then follow it with a read-aloud of pieces about a Dominican boy who wants to be a doctor, a granddaughter of Spanish Civil War exiles, and more.

SV: I’m tickled pink by all these resources that you’ve shared and I’m sure you have heaps more . . . but it’s time to wrap up. 

JW: Time’s up? So that’s why you’re shaking your bracelet!

SV: Would you like to end with another favorite poem to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, perhaps “I Will Be a Chemist: Mario José Molina" by Alma Flor Ada, from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science? 

JW: Perfect choice, Dr. Vardell! 

SV: Thanks for sharing your perspective AND your poetry, Janet. Readers can find more resources on Hispanic/Latino/Latina poetry for young people here and lots more poems in English and Spanish from the Celebrations anthology over at Pinterest-- here's the link.

And now it's time to gather all our poetry friends for Poetry Friday. Please use Mr. Linky below, "In Other Words," to add your blog link and make it easy for everyone to access one another's blogs. Thanks! 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Reverse engineering: Picture book + poetry pairings

Eight years ago, I published an article in Book Links magazine that matched picture books with parallel poems, so that teachers and librarians who read the picture book aloud could have a poem on the same topic (or with the same theme) to follow up or introduce or extend the book experience. It was entitled: "Linking picture books and poetry; A celebration of Black History Month." Book Links. 2007. 16, (3), 44-47. (Sorry, but I can't find it online anymore.) Anyhoo... that got such a great response and really got me thinking about that potential in pairing two genres and formats. 

Flash forward and Janet (Wong) and I decided to do the same thing with our latest book, The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Pomelo Books, 2015). Yes, it's a poetry anthology with 156 poems by 115 poets. Yes, the poems are tied to all kinds of celebrations, holidays, and historic events. Yes, all the poems appear in both English and Spanish. BUT... every poem is also paired with a picture book. And it occurred to me that one could "reverse engineer" this book, ignore the "holidays" component, and use the book to find poems to match with 156 of your favorite contemporary picture books that you share in story times and lessons. (We even provide an index listing all the picture books along with the page numbers for the matching poems.) So, if you like picture books, read them aloud to kids, and would like to START there, here is a complete list of all the picture books we link with poems in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations. 

PICTURE BOOKS CITED (all with matching poems)
365 Penguins by Jean-Luc Fromental (Abrams, 2006)
A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee (HMH, 2008) 
A Dance Like Starlight by Kristy Dempsey (Philomel, 2014)
A Dollar, a Penny, How Much and How Many by Brian P. Cleary (Millbrook, 2014)  
A Piñata in a Pine Tree by Pat Mora (Clarion, 2009)
A Sick Day for Amos Magee by Philip C. Stead (Roaring Brook, 2010) 
A Sweet Passover by Lesléa Newman (Abrams, 2012)
All Different Now: Juneteenth by Angela Johnson (Simon & Schuster, 2014)
All in a Day by Cynthia Rylant (Abrams, 2009) 
All in Just One Cookie by Susan E. Goodman (Greenwillow, 2006) 
All of Baby, Nose to Toes by Victoria Adler (Dial, 2009) 
All the Water in the World by George Ella Lyon (Atheneum, 2011) 
An Egg Is Quiet by Dianna Hutts Aston (Chronicle, 2006) 
And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano (Roaring Brook, 2012)
At the Same Moment Around the World by Clotilde Perrin (Chronicle, 2014) 
Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic by Ginnie Lo (Lee & Low, 2012)
Baby’s First Laugh by Jessie Eve Ruffenach (Salina Bookshelf, 2003) 
Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip C. Stead (Roaring Brook, 2012) 
Bella & Bean by Rebecca Kai Dotlich (Atheneum, 2009)
Biblioburro by Jeanette Winter (Simon & Schuster, 2010) 
Big, Bigger, Biggest! by Nancy Coffelt (Holt, 2009) 
Blackout by John Rocco (Disney-Hyperion, 2011) 
Book Fiesta!: Celebrate Children's Day/Book Day by Pat Mora (Rayo, 2009)
Bringing Asha Home by Uma Krishnaswami (Lee & Low, 2006) 
Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox by Susan Blackaby (Sterling, 2011) 
Can We Save the Tiger by Martin Jenkins (Candlewick, 2011) 
Carl’s Summer Vacation by Alexandra Day (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2008) 
Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown (Little, Brown, 2010) 
Christmas Tree! By Florence Minor (HarperCollins, 2005) 
Clara and Davie by Patricia Polacco (Scholastic, 2014)
Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett (Disney-Hyperion, 2013) 
Dad and Pop: An Ode to Fathers & Stepfathers by Kelly Bennett (Candlewick, 2010)
Dale, Dale, Dale: Hit It, Hit It, Hit It by René Saldaña, Jr. (Piñata Books, 2014)
Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin by Duncan Tonatiuh (Abrams, 2010) 
Desert Elephants by Helen Cowcher (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) 
Dog Loves Books by Louise Yates (Knopf, 2010)
Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015) 
Duck for Turkey Day by Jacqueline Jules (Albert Whitman, 2009) 
Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld (Chronicle, 2009)
Earth Day, Birthday by Maureen Wright (Two Lions, 2012) 
Every Friday by Dan Yaccarino (Holt, 2007) 
Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle by Chris Raschka (Schwartz & Wade, 2013) 
Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett (Balzer & Bray, 2012)
Fireboy to the Rescue! by Edward Miller (Holiday House, 2010) 
Flip, Float, Fly!: Seeds on the Move by JoAnn Early Macken (Holiday House, 2008)
Follow Me by Tricia Tusa (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) 
Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth by Sanjay Patel and Emily Haynes (Chronicle, 2012) 
Grandfather Counts by Andrea Cheng (Lee & Low, 2000) 
Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (Roaring Brook, 2012) 
H.O.R.S.E.: A Game of Basketball and Imagination by Christopher Myers (Egmont, 2012)
Hands around the Library by Susan L. Roth and Karen Leggett Abouraya (Dial, 2012) 
Hanukkah Bear by Eric Kimmel (Holiday House, 2013)
Helen’s Big World by Doreen Rappaport (Disney-Hyperion, 2012) 
Henry's First-Moon Birthday by Lenore Look (Atheneum, 2001) 
Hide-and-Seek Science: Animal Camouflage by Emma Stevenson (Holiday House, 2013)
Holidays Around the World: Diwali by Deborah Heiligman (National Geographic, 2008) 
Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014) 
How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham (Candlewick, 2008) 
I Call My Grandpa Papa; I Call My Grandma Nana by Ashley Wolff (Tricycle, 2009)
I Have a Dream by Kadir Nelson (Schwartz & Wade, 2012)
I Love Saturdays y domingos by Alma Flor Ada (Atheneum, 2002) 
I Pledge Allegiance by Pat Mora and Libby Martinez (Knopf, 2014) 
I Remember Abuelito by Janie Levy (Albert Whitman, 2007)
Ice Cream Summer by Peter Sís (Scholastic, 2015)
If the World Were a Village (2nd edition) by David J. Smith (Kids Can Press, 2011) 
Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein (Candlewick, 2010)
Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith (HarperCollins, 2000) 
Jurassic Poop by Jacob Berkowitz (Kids Can Press, 2006) 
Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert (Harcourt, 2005) 
Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa by Donna L. Washington (HarperCollins, 2010) 
Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen (Candlewick, 2006)
Ling & Ting: Share a Birthday by Grace Lin (Little, Brown, 2013) 
Littlebat’s Halloween Story by Diane Mayr (Whitman, 2009) 
Little Roja Riding Hood by Susan Middleton Elya (Putnam, 2014) 
Mama Loves by Rebecca Kai Dotlich (HarperCollins, 2004)
Marvelous Mattie by Emily Arnold McCully (2006)
Mind Your Manners, B. B. Wolf by Judy Sierra (Knopf, 2007)
Miss Fox’s Class Shapes Up by Eileen Spinelli (Albert Whitman, 2011) 
Moonshot by Brian Floca (Atheneum, 2009) 
Mother to Tigers by George Ella Lyon (Atheneum, 2003)  
My Teacher by James Ransome (Dial, 2012) 
Neville by Norton Juster (Schwartz & Wade, 2011) 
New Year at the Pier by April Halprin Wayland (Dial, 2009) 
Night of the Moon by Hena Khan (Chronicle, 2008) 
No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart (Charlesbridge, 2013)
Noah Webster & His Words by Jeri Chase Ferris (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012) 
Now & Ben by Gene Barretta (Square Fish, 2008) 
On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman (Feiwel & Sons, 2006)
Oscar’s Half Birthday by Bob Graham (Candlewick, 2005)
Our Grandparents: A Global Album by Maya Ajmera (Charlesbridge, 2010)
Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by James Dean (HarperCollins, 2012)
Picture Day Perfection by Deborah Diesen (Abrams, 2013)
Pirate vs. Pirate by Mary Quattlebaum (Hyperion, 2011)
Planes Fly! by George Ella Lyon (Atheneum, 2013)
Polar Bears by Mark Newman (Holt, 2010)
Popcorn by Elaine Landau (Charlesbridge, 2003)
President’s Day by Anne Rockwell (HarperCollins, 2007)
Press Here by Hervé Tullet (Chronicle, 2011) 
Red, White, and Boom! by Lee Wardlaw (Holt, 2012) 
Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty (Abrams, 2013) 
Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan (Scholastic, 2014) 
Say Hello! by Rachel Isadora (Putnam, 2010)
Secret Pizza Party by Adam Rubin (Dial, 2013) 
Sequoia by Tony Johnston (Roaring Brook, 2014) 
Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton (Little, Brown, 2010)
Sick Simon by Dan Krall (Simon & Schuster, 2015)
So You Want to Be President by Judith St. George (Philomel, 2004) 
Spaghetti Smiles by Margo Sorenson (Pelican, 2014) 
Take Me Out to the Yakyu by Aaron Meshon (Atheneum, 2013)
Ten Days and Nine Nights by Yumi Heo (Schwartz & Wade, 2009) 
Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival by Grace Lin (Knopf, 2010)
That Is Not a Good Idea by Mo Willems  (Balzer & Bray, 2013) 
The Birthday Cake by Sven Nordqvist (NorthSouth, 2015)
The Book Boat’s In by Cynthia Cotten (Holiday House, 2013) 
The Book with No Pictures by B. J. Novak (Dial, 2014)
The Camping Trip that Changed America by Barb Rosenstock (Dial, 2012) 
The Carnival of the Animals by Jack Prelutsky (Knopf, 2010) 
The Christmas Coat by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve (Holiday House, 2011) 
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt (Philomel, 2013) 
The Dumpster Diver by Janet Wong (Candlewick, 2007)
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce (Atheneum, 2012)
The Flag Maker by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (HMH, 2004) 
The Greatest Game Ever Played by Phil Bildner (Putnam, 2006)
The Impossible Patriotism Project by Linda Skeers (Dial, 2007) 
The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel, 2007) 
The Kindhearted Crocodile by Lucia Panzieri (Holiday House, 2013) 
The Last Day of Kindergarten by Nancy Loewen (Two Lions, 2011) 
The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney (Little, Brown, 2009) 
The Longest Day: Celebrating the Summer Solstice by Wendy Pfeffer (Dutton, 2010)
The Mangrove Tree by Susan L. Roth (Lee & Low, 2011) 
The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett (Simon & Schuster, 2009) 
The Pirate of Kindergarten by George Ella Lyon (Atheneum, 2010) 
The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania of Jordan (Disney-Hyperion, 2010) 
The Shortest Day by Wendy Pfeffer (Dutton, 2003) 
The Third Gift by Linda Sue Park (Clarion, 2011)
The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin (Charlesbridge, 1999) 
The Wakame Gatherers by Holly Thompson (Shen’s/Lee & Low, 2007) 
The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli (Disney-Hyperion, 2013) 
This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman (Magination, 2014) 
This Next New Year by Janet Wong (Korean/English edition, Pomelo, 2014) 
This Old Band by Tamera Will Wissinger (Sky Pony, 2014) 
This School Year Will Be the Best by Kay Winters (Dutton, 2010) 
Tillie the Terrible Swede by Sue Stauffacher (Knopf, 2011) 
To Market, To Market by Nikki McClure (Abrams, 2011) 
Twenty-two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank by Paula Yoo (Lee & Low, 2014) 
Vote! by Eileen Christelow (Clarion, 2003) 
We March by Shane Evans (Roaring Brook, 2012)
What a Party! by Sandy Asher (Philomel, 2007) 
What Did You Put in Your Pocket? by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers (HarperCollins, 2003) 
When Otis Courted Mama by Kathi Appelt (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015)
When We Go Walking by Cari Best (Two Lions, 2013) 
When You Wander: A Search-and-Rescue Dog Story by Margarita Engle (Henry Holt, 2013) 
Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? by Tanya Lee Stone (Holt, 2013) 
Why the Chicken Crossed the Road by Tedd Arnold and others (Dial, 2006) 
Xander’s Panda Party by Linda Sue Park (Clarion, 2013) 
Yes, Let’s by Galen Goodwin Longstreth (Tanglewood Press, 2013) 
Yo-Yo Man by Daniel Pinkwater (HarperCollins, 2007)
Zoopa: An Animal Alphabet by Gianna Marino (Chronicle, 2005)
Yes, there really is a poem for each one of these picture books in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (and in English AND Spanish). So, for example, if you have a picture book about spaghetti like Spaghetti Smiles by Margo Sorenson (or another favorite spaghetti book), and you regularly share that book with kids (who generally love spaghetti), there is a poem waiting for you to match with that book. Here it is:

And if you want to share this book and poem on National Pasta Day, October 17, you're all set! But you can certainly share both the book and poem on ANY day, right? 

Now head on over to Today's Little Ditty where the lovely Michelle H-B is hosting our Poetry Friday gathering.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Celebrate POET

In a wonderful confluence of variables, author and illustrator Don Tate was in Chapel Hill, North Carolina as part of his book tour for his new picture book, Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton, and since my daughter lives in Chapel Hill, I mentioned this to her and she attended his presentation. She took photos, made video clips, and even got a book autographed for me! So lovely! You can see all about Don's launch week for POET complete with photos at his blog here. There were even descendants of poet George Moses Horton in the audience! So cool!

I'm sharing a few nuggets here because I think this book (and this author/illustrator) is really special: Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton published by Peachtree Press. It's Don's first book as BOTH author and illustrator and I was so pleased that Don spoke at the Poetry Round Up at the Texas Library Association conference this last spring and even read one of Horton's poems aloud. There's a wonderful video at Don's website here and you can learn more about his Freedom Tour, too.

I was already somewhat familiar with the book and the story, but when I received galleys this summer (along with a quill pen and powdered ink!), I was really captivated by this book. First, it's an engaging, true account beautifully illustrated in muted colors with a compelling story-like pull. It reads well out loud, so it's a natural for story time. It's fact-based, so it provides a slice of history and fits with Common Core objectives, too-- incorporating bits of song, scripture, and poetry alongside the facts. There's even a teacher's guide with lots of great activities (and skill connections) here at Don's website and another video nugget here and a thorough review hereGeorge Moses Horton was the first African American in the south to be published and his journey is such an inspiring one. 

Kids will enjoy that George is SO resourceful and independent, especially given the constraints of his life as an enslaved person who is separated from his family, too. They will relate to his steps in becoming a reader-- learning letters, plodding through a spelling book, figuring out how to spell and write, getting his first book. They'll be intrigued that he wrote poems in his mind first and then made money writing poems for other people. And they'll bristle at all the obstacles he had to overcome-- being owned by a master who refused to sell him even when George mustered the resources. 

Poet celebrates literacy, poetry, and the human spirit-- a terrific combination-- in an accessible way through story and art. And Horton's poetry is available online at the Poetry Foundation's website, too, for students who might want to follow up. Here are a few slides from Don's presentation about his research for the book and his early sketches. 
And the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina where Don delivered this talk (and where he did some of his research for the book) created a special exhibit of some of the related materials about George Moses Horton. There's a short UNC interview with Don here.

Here's Horton's  second published book, His Poetical Works and a draft of a handwritten poem.

My daughter, Emily, getting Don's autograph
Kirkus gave Poet a starred review: "... a new perspective with remarkable clarity"

School Library Journal also gave it a starred review: "A lovely introduction to an inspirational American poet." 

Don't miss this book for a true story, a beautiful picture book, a celebration of literacy, an African American hero, a slice of history, and an invitation to poetry. 

Now head on over to Robyn's place, Life on the Deckle Edge, for our Poetry Friday fun. 

Thursday, September 03, 2015

BOOK LINKS: The Past through Poetry and Picture Books

You probably know that I'm a big fan of ALA's Book Links magazine and have been writing a poetry column for that publication for over a decade now. And now they're celebrating their 25th anniversary. Very cool! Here is a link to the September 2015 issue of Book Links. Click here.

My column this month focuses on poetry and poetic picture books that depict history and biography. I include an annotated list of two dozen wonderful books that are not-to-be-missed. You can read the entire thing here. If you'd just like a taste, here's an excerpt. 

The Past through Poetry and Picture Books
by Sylvia Vardell
A lovely picture book can take us back to special childhood memories, but it is also a carefully crafted work of art with drama in every page turn. And when a picture book melds history and poetry, something unique emerges—a visual glimpse of people and times of the past, shared in powerful images and spare or lyrical language. Here we examine picture books that feature stories or people from history in poems and poetic language. These books offer a dual opportunity: introducing young children to touchstone moments of our human story, as well as invigorating that study of history for older students by using the visuals of the accessible picture book alongside the distilled language of poetry to heighten interest and understanding. The best historical and biographical picture books tend to be focused on one person or specific event; a story that can be told in the span of a few pages with illustrations that provide a visual window into history, portrayed authentically and accurately.
And here are some of the activities I suggest to accompany the books that are cited. (The link provides the Common Core State Standards for each activity, too.)
In the Classroom: Read the poems or story aloud first without illustrations to savor the language. Then, on the second reading, show the illustrations and discuss the differences in the experiences, such as how the poem looks, how it makes readers feel, and how the illustrator visualized each line, stanza, or the entire verse. Invite students to create a homemade book of original illustrations to accompany a favorite poem (one line per page) or the lyrics of a favorite song, or alongside found poems they create based on researching facts and details. This can help introduce young readers to longer, narrative poems or classic works available in picture-book format, such as Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”; “The Owl and the Pussycat,” by Edward Lear; “Casey at the Bat,” by Ernest Lawrence Thayer; and “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (or “’Twas the Night before Christmas”), by Clement Clarke Moore; and others in the Visions in Poetry series.

In the Classroom: Work with students to understand the setting of the book by looking up images for each locale in an atlas, via Google Maps, or other resources. Then challenge young readers to research what was happening in the world during this time, linking with relevant nonfiction picture books, reference works, and online resources. Using museum resources can add so much to children’s learning of historical content and reading of historical literature. Check to see what local history museums or children’s museums might have available where you live. Do they have personnel who can visit the classroom or library? Exhibits or materials they will loan out? It is also possible to access online resources, such as Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibits, featuring topics such as civil rights and Latino life, and “Today’s Document,” available at the National Archives online, which includes a visual image of an actual historical document. Also useful are the American Memory and Today in History projects, which have links at the Library of Congress online, which offers a wealth of information and visuals to supplement historical study.

In the Classroom: Sharing primary source documents, maps, time lines, and artifacts helps children visualize and conceptualize historical times through hands-on materials. Even audio resources can provide a connection with the voices of the past. For example, the American Rhetoric website offers an online speech bank with audio recordings, transcripts, and visuals for more than 5,000 important speeches. When children can hear, see, or touch the “stuff” of history, it becomes so much more real and memorable for them. Check out Jackdaws Publications, for primary-source materials that support the study of many historical eras. For a model of how to use primary sources and “do history” with kids, check out DoHistory, a website that “shows you how to piece together the past from the fragments that have survived.”

In the Classroom: Bring the historical period of a picture book to life through readers’ theater by inviting children to read bits of dialogue or narration aloud, by having them dress up and speak as the historical subject of the book, or by staging more elaborate dramatic skits. Connecting drama with history makes the people and places real to children through first-hand experience, almost like participating in a living history museum. In fact, Carol Otis Hurst provides helpful guidelines for involving children in creating and participating in their own informal living history museums (follow the links at for more information). Another idea is to look for local reenactors who might want to share their experiences. Even local actors who perform in community or professional theater can be recruited as guests to share their insights on costuming, dialect coaching, and character research for historical dramas. Through one of these several avenues, children will be able to find some spark of personal connection with history and poetry.

Now, don't forget to join the rest of the Poetry Friday bloggers who are gathering at Linda's place, TeacherDance. See you there!