Thursday, September 14, 2017

Reading Poetry Aloud… even to a rabbit!

If you’ve been following my blog AT ALL, you know I am a big (huge, total) fan of reading poetry aloud. Heck, I even wrote a book about it (Poetry Aloud Here)! I believe it is the ideal way of sharing poetry with children. It builds on their oral language expertise, expands their listening skills, invites participation, models pronunciation and diction, demonstrates fluent reading, and takes very little classroom time. I could go on and on. Plus, poets always tell me that their poetry is meant to be HEARD. They choose each word, plan each line and stanza, and craft each poem for the auditory impact, as well as for meaning and emotion. But it’s so basic, that I find people often dismiss this simple practice. Please DON’T! 

One of the reasons I love this new movement of inviting children to read to pets (therapeutic dogs and even stuffed animals) is that it focuses on reading aloud. It provides such a comfortable context for kids to practice their reading aloud—especially kids who are lacking in confidence or still struggling with reading easily and smoothly. Why not incorporate poetry into this practice?

When it comes to reading poetry aloud to kids, just about any book of poetry will work—particularly if YOU enjoy it and if it’s a topic with kid appeal. Instant success! But there are some books of poetry that are planned for this purpose—designed to be read aloud and shared with a partner or group. I thought it might be fun to pull a list of those together to share here.  Here are 20 books with poems that beg to be read aloud—and some include action and motions, always fun!

Poetry collections designed for reading aloud
  1. Ada, Alma Flor, and Campoy, Isabel, comp. 2003.  Pio Peep! Traditional Spanish Nursery Rhymes. New York:  HarperCollins.
  2. Ada, Alma Flor and Campoy, Isabel, comp. 2010. Muu, Moo! Rimas de animales/Animal Nursery Rhymes. New York: Rayo/HarperCollins.
  3. Bagert, Brod.  2007.  Shout! Little Poems that Roar. New York:  Dial.
  4. Calmenson, Stephanie.  2005.  Kindergarten Kids: Riddles, Rebuses, Wiggles, Giggles, and More! New York:  HarperCollins Publishers.
  5. Crews, Nina.  2004. The Neighborhood Mother Goose. New York:  Greenwillow.
  6. Crews, Nina. 2011. Neighborhood Sing Along. New York: HarperCollins.
  7. Dotlich, Rebecca Kai.  2004.  Over in the Pink House: New Jump Rope Rhymes. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
  8. Franco, Betsy. 2004. Counting Our Way to the 100th Day. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books.
  9. Hale, Glorya, ed. 1997. Read-aloud Poems for Young People:  An Introduction to the Magic and Excitement of Poetry. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal.
  10. Hoberman, Mary Ann. 2001. You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You; Very Short Stories to Read Together. Ill. by Michael Emberley. Boston: Little, Brown.
  11. Hoberman, Mary Ann. 2004. You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You; Very Short Fairy Tales to Read Together. Ill. by Michael Emberley. Boston: Little, Brown.
  12. Hoberman, Mary Ann. 2005. You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You; Very Short Mother Goose Tales to Read Together. Ill. by Michael Emberley. Boston: Little, Brown.
  13. Hoberman, Mary Ann. 2007. You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You; Very Short Scary Tales to Read Together. Ill. by Michael Emberley. Boston: Little, Brown.
  14. Hopkins, Lee Bennett, comp. 1998. Climb Into My Lap: First Poems To Read Together.  New York: Simon & Schuster.
  15. Katz, Bobbi.  2001.  A Rumpus of Rhymes:  A Book of Noisy Poems. New York: Dutton.
  16. Mora, Pat.  1996.  Uno Dos Tres. New York: Clarion.
  17. Newcome, Zita.  2000. Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes and Other Action Rhymes. Somerville, MA:  Candlewick.
  18. Orozco, José Luis.  2002.  Diez Deditos: Ten Little Fingers and Other Play Rhymes and Action Songs from Latin America. New York:  Dutton.
  19. Schertle, Alice. 2003. Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear. New York: HarperCollins. 
  20. Sierra, Judy. 2005. Schoolyard Rhymes: Kids’ Own Rhymes for Rope Skipping, Hand Clapping, Ball Bouncing, and Just Plain Fun. New York: Knopf.
And for a more advanced group, don’t forget to try poetry for multiple voices. This takes a bit more planning, but can be so enjoyable and meaningful! 

Poetry for multiple voices
  1. Fleischman, Paul. 1985. I Am Phoenix: Poems for Two Voices. New York: Harper & Row.
  2. Fleischman, Paul. 1988. Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices. New York: Harper & Row.
  3. Fleischman, Paul. 2000. Big Talk:  Poems for Four Voices. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. 
  4. Franco, Betsy. 2009. Messing Around the Monkey Bars and other School Poems for Two Voices. Ill. by Jessie Hartland. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. 
  5. Gerber, Carole. 2013. Seeds, Bees, Butterflies and More! Poems for Two Voices. New York: Holt.
  6. Harrison, David L. 2000. Farmer’s Garden: Rhymes for Two Voices. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills.
  7. Heard, Georgia. 1992. Creatures of Earth, Sea, and Sky. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/ Boyds Mills.
  8. Pappas, Theoni. 1991. Math Talk: Mathematical Ideas in Poems for Two Voices. San Carlos, CA: Wide World Publishing/Tetra.

For more tips on reading poetry aloud, check out Paige Bentley-Flannery’s post at the ALSC blog here.

Last week, Janet (Wong) and I were so pleased have our post featured at the Nerdy Book Club blog. We featured our latest project of course—PET CRAZY, which is so fun to read aloud, especially with pets or stuffed animals. It even has a poem about reading to a pet—Liz Steinglass’s awesome poem, “Book Hound” about reading to a dog named Ruby. Here it is: 

Janet wrote a wonderful response poem to Liz’s poem about reading to a rabbit!

And when Janet and I found a “Reading Rabbit” that you can record a message on (to have the Rabbit “speak” to you), we went bananas! (Or should I say, “we went carrots!”?). We bought that Reading Rabbit, recorded a special message, and in honor of our pet theme, we are sending that Reading Rabbit—to one of the people who helped us spread the word about our Nerdy Book Club post and our PET CRAZY book. After gathering all those names (thank you ALL so much!), we drew one name and the winner of our special Reading Rabbit is…..

Allison Jackson
3rd grade teacher
Waggoner Elementary School
Tempe, Arizona

Congratulations, Allison! We’ll be mailing our Reading Rabbit to you shortly! We hope you and your students have a great time reading poetry aloud to RR—and we’d love to see some photos, if you have time!

Meanwhile, join the rest of the Poetry Friday crew over at Today’s Little Ditty where the wonderful Michelle Heidenrich Barnes is hosting our gathering! 

Friday, September 08, 2017

Guest post: Don't Be Fooled by René Saldaña, Jr.

Today’s blog post is a guest post by my friend and colleague, René Saldaña, Jr. It’s such a treat to host him, his teaching, and his students. 

First, a bit of background: René Saldaña, Jr., is the author of several books for children and young adults, among them The Jumping Tree, A Good Long Way, Heartbeat of the Soul of the World, and A Mystery Bigger than Big, the 4th installment of his bilingual Mickey Rangel mystery series. In honor of pets and in celebration of Sylvia and Janet's latest Poetry Friday Power Books, Pet Crazy, here is a list of his own: Sadie and Chito (dogs) and Gordon, Cotton, Jet, Dottie, and Raisin (all cats). He is associate professor of Language, Diversity, and Language Studies in the College of Education at Texas Tech University.

Here René writes about the evolution of his teaching and shares (with permission) some of the work his students created this summer. Enjoy!

Don’t Be Fooled: Nothing’s Wasted on the Young
A Meandering Piece by René Saldaña, Jr.

Throughout my six years teaching reading and writing in a secondary language arts classroom in Texas, one of the biggest beefs I had with my students on the whole was that they didn’t pay attention: to me, to instructions, to the world around them. A shame, because if only they had, I would tell them, your writing would be that much better. “All you have to do is to pay attention, observe, just take care to notice stuff.” So much world wasted on the young.

Oh, in my arrogance (I had only just graduated with a masters in literature and boy did I know it all, and way more where my students were concerned!) I refused to give them the benefit of the doubt; instead I pulled a Ruby Payne before Ruby Payne existed as such and sought to blame the kids’ culture of poverty for their lack of willingness to learn. To simply sit back and listen to me teach them what I knew in my heart of hearts would show them how they could defeat this mean and ugly world that had managed to stack every card against them, etc., etc, ad nauseam.

Today, a couple decades and a half later, I don’t “teach” as much as I learn to teach in the moment. I’m trying to take my own advice: to do a lot more paying attention of my own in the classroom, to the personality of this classroom compared to the next and the following and adjusting my approaches, observing the individual student to see what he or she will teach me about teaching, planning for tomorrow only after a long day based on how it went today. I’m more chill today. No less rigorous and my expectations are just as high as before if not more so. But the gray hair has set in on my beard and head, I move slower (or smoother depending on the perspective), I prefer the organic nature of teaching.

Here’s a bit of what I’ve learned.

It wasn’t that they weren’t paying attention; in fact, they were paying very careful attention. It had more to do with my teaching, which is to say, I really wasn’t, teaching that is. I stood in front of the classroom, center stage droning on about one thing or another, expecting them to just get it, and if they didn’t, it had more to do with them and their ill-educated parents who cared little about their children’s academic success than with me. After all, wasn’t it I who showed up every morning ready to teach their children, “on the front lines,” we described it as. I had been one of them, literally: I had graduated from this very district years back, had left for college, left the state, as a matter of fact, made it through a bachelor’s and a master’s. I knew what was best for them. What I didn’t know was how to teach them, how to reach them.

Nowadays, I own that I don’t know jack about teaching, despite years doing it at the secondary and university levels, and in a college of education for the past 10 years no less (don’t believe me? I’ve got the lapel pin to show you if you need proof). I have learned a few things, chief among them, young people do pay attention to me (I like to tell myself this at least), to the instructions I give them (today more about inquiry than passively taking in what I dish out), and to the world around them. They’ve actually been paying very careful attention. All they need to show us how much they have been doing so is to provide for them a venue: and poetry—the reading of it, and the writing of it, especially—is just such a venue.

This past summer, I worked with a group of rural kids from West Texas on their reading and writing skills. You see, they’re supposed to be behind their other Texan counterparts in urban and suburban areas. They’re from little towns like Morton and Whiteface, from farming and ranching families, most of them Mexican American. Most of them multi-generational. Many of them will not leave their small towns. Or maybe they will, and this is one of the hopes for this Upward Bound program I’ve gladly attached myself to. The director tells me, “Dr. Saldaña, you have free reign; teach them something about writing.” He might think this lessens the burden for me. On the contrary, the load is made heavier. If I had a curriculum dictated to me, I would follow it, I could blame it if things went awry, I could empathize with the students if it got boring: “It’s not me, it’s this blasted curriculum.” I’d want to act like the Robin Williams character in Dead Poet’s Society and call for a sort of academic revolution: “All of you, tear that ultra-prescriptive syllabus into shreds.” We’d litter the floor in shorn paper. On my way out the door, kids would jump up on the desk one by one and salute me, “O, Captain, My Captain.” But no, I have to create the syllabus myself, the daily lessons, confer with students to assess their progress. All the things of teaching. It’s a big deal, really. Daunting.

So this summer I went with poetry. I’d only recently read Sylvia and Janet’s Here We Go, their second in the Poetry Friday Power Book series, not quite how-to books but rather experience-doing-poetry books, first hand. I also planned a culminating assignment: they were to perform one original piece at the end of our time together. This was the scarier part for a good many of the students, some thirty in all. We read from the book, we did from the book, I read aloud the work of Josephine Cásarez, a beautiful San Antonio poet whose work demands it be performed (“Up Against the Wall” (1993) and “Me, Pepa Makes It Big” (1995)), we deconstructed what I think is one of history’s best haiku, “A Leaf Falls” by e.e. cummings, and we studied found poems and Golden Shovel poems, and more. Then we drafted and revised, workshopped, revised some more, and finally concluded with two days of performance.

We set up the cafeteria at South Plains College in Levelland (TX) for the readings, and each poet came up with poem in hand and read, while the rest of us sat back and enjoyed. They wanted to snap fingers instead of clap because isn’t that how we should react to poetry? One poet wrote a piece about the day her mother died in a violent car accident. The poet had been in the car, and last thing she remembers is her mother there, then when she comes to, the mother gone literally, but also gone-gone, if you get my meaning, and hers. The audience didn’t know how to react. Not a single one of them snapped a finger for her. They were stunned at her bravery to read such a personal poem. Her voice had even quavered at just the right places. I knew the truth: she’d made up that part about the mother dying. She’d started with truth, then veered, dramatically, traumatically, created a persona, and wrote a moving quasi-apostrophe. The audience was relieved to hear my explanation. They were glad at the news, but still couldn’t find it in them to give her a hearty round of snaps. Somehow that worked better.

Following is a sampling of their work:

Thank you, René, Lily, Jasmine, Cynthia, Martha, and Marisol. How lovely to spend some time with you and your summer writing. Your hearts shine through your poems! Please keep writing….

Now, look for more Poetry Friday sharing at Radio, Rhythm, & Rhyme where Matt is hosting our party and launching his own wonderful new book, Flashlight Night.

Friday, September 01, 2017

More on pets and poems and connections

Did everyone see the sweet photo of Otis carrying his own bag of dog food down a Houston street during the recent Hurricane Harvey disaster? Amid all the horrible rain and flooding and suffering, this image captured my heart and made me smile. And I don't think I'm alone there!
I hope all the beloved pets will be reunited with their families very soon as the relief efforts continue. We here all over Texas are very concerned about our neighbors on the Gulf Coast and there are already multiple sources of help and relief being offered. Have you seen the Hurricane Harvey Book Club on Facebook?  So many authors reading their books aloud and kids reading and responding. Such a great use of social media for outreach and comfort and healing!

As I think about this pet-reading-responding connection, I started gathering a big list of pet poetry together and thought I might share it here. Yes, I am pet crazy with the release of my new Pet Crazy book with Janet Wong (and Kristy Dempsey, Helen Frost, Janice Harrington, Eric Ode, Laura Shovan, Eileen Spinelli, Elizabeth Steinglass, Don Tate, Padma Venkatraman, April Halprin Wayland, Carole Boston Weatherford, and Tamera Will Wissinger), but I also think pets are always such a source of joy, comfort, and companionship. Here are a few photos of pets I have loved in my family and an assortment of poetry books about all kinds of pets. Enjoy!

Pet Poetry Books
Ashman, Linda. 2008. Stella, Unleashed. New York: Sterling. 
Clements, Andrew. 2007. Dogku. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Crawley, Dave. 2007. Dog Poems. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills.
Florian, Douglas. 2003. Bow Wow Meow Meow: It’s Rhyming Cats and Dogs. San Diego: Harcourt Brace.
Franco, Betsy. 2009. A Curious Collection of Cats. Ill. by Michael Wertz. San Francisco: Tricycle Press.
Franco, Betsy. 2011. A Dazzling Display of Dogs. Ill. by Michael Wertz. Berkeley, CA: Tricycle. 
George, Kristine O’Connell. 1999. Little Dog Poems. New York: Clarion.
George, Kristine O’Connell. 2002. Little Dog and Duncan. New York: Clarion.
George, Kristine O’Connell. 2004. Hummingbird Nest: A Journal of Poems. New York: Harcourt.
Grimes, Nikki. 2007. When Gorilla Goes Walking. New York: Orchard Books. 
Katz, Susan. 2007. Oh, Theodore! Guinea Pig Poems. New York: Clarion Books.
Lewis, J. Patrick. Ed. 2012. Book of Animal Poetry. Washington DC: National Geographic.
MacLachlan, Patricia and Charest, Emily MacLachlan. 2013. Cat Talk. Ill. by Barry Moser. New York: Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins.
MacLachlan, Patricia and Charest, Emily MacLachlan. 2013. Cat Talk. Ill. by Barry Moser. New York: Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins.
Paschkis, Julie. 2015. Flutter & Hum: Animal Poems/ Aleteo y Zumbido: Poemas de Animales. New York: Holt. 
Pearson, Susan. 2005. Who Swallowed Harold? And Other Poems about Pets. New York: Marshall Cavendish.
Prelutsky, Jack. 2004. If Not for the Cat: Haiku. New York: Greenwillow.
Roemer, Heidi. 2009. Whose Nest is This? Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade.
Rosen, Michael J. 2011. The Hound Dog’s Haiku and Other Poems for Dog Lovers. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. 
Rosen, Michael J. 2015. The Maine Coon's Haiku and Other Poems for Cat Lovers. Ill. by Lee White. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Ruddell, Deborah. 2007. Today at the Bluebird Café. New York: McElderry. 
Salas, Laura Purdie. 2009. A Fuzzy-Fast Blur: Poems about Pets. Mankato: Capstone.
Schmidt, Amy. 2013. Dog-Gone School. Ill. by Ron Schmidt. New York: Random House.
Sidman, Joyce. 2006. Meow Ruff: A Story in Concrete Poetry. Ill. by Michelle Berg. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Sidman, Joyce. 2006. Meow Ruff. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Singer, Marilyn, 2012. Every Day's a Dog's Day: A Year in Poems. New York: Dial.
Sklansky, Amy E. 2002. From the Doghouse: Poems to Chew On. New York: Holt.
Wardlaw, Lee. 2011. Won Ton; A Cat Tale Told in Haiku. Ill. by Eugene Yelchin. New York: Henry Holt. 
Wardlaw, Lee. 2011. Won Ton; A Cat Tale Told in Haiku. Ill. by Eugene Yelchin. Henry Holt.
Anakin and Amidala
Wardlaw, Lee. 2015. Won Ton and Chopstick: A Cat and Dog Tale Told in Haiku. Ill. by Eugene Yelchin. New York: Holt.
Wheeler, Lisa. 2013. The Pet Project: Cute and Cuddly Vicious Verses. Ill. by Zachariah OHora. New York: Atheneum.
Wing, Natasha. 2016. The Night Before the New Pet. Ill. by Amy Wummer. Penguin/Grosset & Dunlap.
Worth, Valerie. 2007. Animal Poems. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Yolen, Jane. 1994. Alphabestiary: Animal Poems from A to Z. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills.

Guess who is hosting our Poetry Friday fun this week? Kathryn Apel from Australia! Go to her blog NOW!