Thursday, February 06, 2020

Oppa, Gangnam Style!

Eight years ago, seventy-six poets joined us in a project that aimed to make it easy for K-5 teachers to share poetry with their students for five minutes each Friday. That was 2012, the year we created The Poetry Friday Anthology K-5. One edition of the book was designed to help teachers integrate poetry lessons with the CCSS (Common Core State Standards). Another edition of the book focused on the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills).

Immediately after these books came out, middle school teachers and librarians asked us to create middle school versions. In 2013, we published The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School, again with one CCSS edition and one Texas TEKS edition.

To give you some context, the hit song in 2012 was "Gangnam Style." In 2013, the second Hunger Games movie, "Catching Fire," had just been released. That was the year that Beyonce admitted to lip-synching the national anthem at President Obama's inauguration. (We still loved it, anyway.) It feels like such a long time ago, doesn't it?

That's how we're feeling now about those books with the big sun on the cover. We love them, but they remind us of a time that has passed. Many states have left the CCSS behind, moving from the Common Core to standards that might still be very similar but have different names and code numbers) or fewer standards overall (which we think is a good thing). The Poetry TEKS are still in full force, but have been slightly revised since 2012. And so we believe it's time to say goodbye to those books. May 31, 2020 will be the last day of their availability on Amazon. You might be able to find them during the summer at or some of our other distributors or independent booksellers, but probably not for long after that.

The good news is that we're going to keep on publishing and promoting our other books in The Poetry Friday Anthology series, and in the Poetry Friday Power Book series, and also our title for administrators, GREAT Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud.

Here's a summary, in case any of these books are new to you:

The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science is an NSTA Recommends book that comes in two editions: a K-5 Teacher/Librarian Edition and an illustrated student edition with extra bonus poems, The Poetry of Science. A STEM poem from these books is featured monthly in our column in the NSTA elementary journal Science and Children, along with a Take 5! mini-lesson that gives teachers and librarians a quick ready-made presentation on a STEM topic such as lab safety or ecosystems or 3-D printing.

The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations, an ILA Notable Book for a Global Society, is available in both Teacher/Librarian and Student editions. A neat feature: you'll find a picture book pairing (recommendation) for each of the 150+ poems in the book. And each of the poems is presented in both English and Spanish versions. If you don't want to share the Spanish versions, you can ignore them; but if you want to highlight some of them by playing audio readings by award-winning writer David Bowles and some of his UTRGV students, listen for free at SoundCloud.

Moving onto our Poetry Friday Power Book series, which focuses on building the reading-writing connection and playing with words: 

You Just Wait, an NCTE Poetry Notable, is an interactive writing journal that weaves 12 anchor poems (by poets such as Margarita Engle and Joseph Bruchac) together with 24 poems by Janet Wong, told in the voices of three teen characters: Paz, a star soccer player; Joe, a basketball player with limited skills but big dreams; and Lucesita, who loves movies and food.

Here We Go, an NCTE Poetry Notable and an NNSTOY Social Justice Book, is an interactive writing journal with anchor poets that include Naomi Shihab Nye and David Bowles. Janet Wong created 4 characters for this book, children who want to change the world—starting with a food drive, walkathon, and school garden.

Pet Crazy, for youngest readers and writers, includes anchor poets Laura Shovan and Padma Venkatraman and 3 characters created by Janet Wong: Kristy, who loves cats; Ben, who wishes he could have a dog; and Daniel, who loves all animals but doesn't feel a need to own a pet. This book has a Hidden Language Skills section with poetry and general language skills (such as capitalization and spelling).

Finally, create a school culture of positivity with the morning announcement poems-- and Did You Know? Intros-- found in GREAT Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud, featuring well-known poets such as Carole Boston Weatherford and Jack Prelutsky, newer poets such as Traci Sorell and Xelena Gonzalez, and educators who are poets, too, such as Carol Varsalona and Catherine Flynn.

PHEW! That was a lot of information, we know. So visit this blog again next week for an additional very exciting piece of news! A big Poetry Friday THANK YOU to all the poets who took a risk with us on those very first books and all the teachers and librarians who have used, loved, and shared those books. We hope they have helped you infuse more poetry into your routine, build your confidence with strategies for sharing poetry, and gotten the young people you love excited about poetry!

Now, it's time for more Poetry Friday fun! The lovely Laura Purdie Salas is hosting all our postings today, so go there now!  


Irene Latham said...

You two have done some amazing work since Beyonce lipsynced the National Anthem! So grateful for all you do to bring poetry to people's lives... honored to be part of the journey and excited to hear your news about what's next. YAY! So many congratulations on everything! xo

Linda said...

It's hard to believe that it's been eight years ago. Thank you so much for all you have done to bring poetry into the lives of children. I can't wait to hear your exciting news. I know it's going to be something wonderful!

Buffy Silverman said...

You have brought poetry to so many kids and their teachers--and taken a chance on some of us who were new to poetry. Thanks for letting me play on the Poetry Friday team!

author amok said...

Janet and Sylvia, thank you for this wonderful series, and for the advocacy you both do in making poetry part of the classroom and available to all students. I'm proud to be part of some of these wonderful books.

laurasalas said...

Sylvia, I am so sad to see those books go out of print, as they are jewels. But I totally understand the things going into that decision, and I applaud you guys for doing what you feel is best--for you and for your poetry advocacy overall. I'm so glad you and Janet are still creating many wonderful poetry books for educators!

jan godown annino said...

So much word play in 8 years. Cheers for 8 years more.

Pushing poetry
provides pint-sized people
powerful parameters to
perservere with panache

(even if they don't know what panache means, yet.
A Poetry for Children co-hort is likely to lead them them, that :)

Appreciations, Sylvia & Janet!

Tabatha said...

Gangnam Style does feel like a long, long time ago, doesn't it?
Thank you for the plethora of fine poems and especially for the abundance of poetry enthusiasm! 💕

Kay said...

What an amazing collection of resources. Thanks for all you do to bring poetry to children

Sylvia Vardell said...

Aw, thank you all for your kindness and all your support with all our projects! It's such an honor to be part of such a caring poetry community!

Linda B said...

When I was teaching, I loved your books, still have them, now browsing to be inspired myself. You've helped many educators see how poetry can touch young writers when they had no idea how to proceed. Yes, a long time since 2013, but I'm glad to read that you're continuing on! Thanks for all the work for poetry!

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

Yes, it does seem like a long time ago, but much more impressive is how much you and Janet have accomplished in less than 8 years!!! In that way, it feels like the blink of an eye. Here's to looking back in another 8 years and seeing just how much more of a difference you've made in teachers' and students' lives.

Ruth said...

Well, I for one am going to keep using PFAMS - it's one of my favorites!

michelle kogan said...

I'm also happy to hear you are continuing on with the majority of these bountiful poetry books here, and interested in hearing what's to come in the future, thank you both!

mbhmaine said...

Wow, what a wonderful collection of poetry books you've brought into the lives of so many. That's an accomplishment to celebrate, for sure! Can't wait to hear what next week's news is!

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Gotta love a little 2020 hindsight post! Thanks for all--and I mean ALL--you have done to support and encourage and enable (in the healthy way) me and other poets over the last 15 years. Being an optimist and futurist, though, I'm most excited for next week's news! Meet you back here on <3 Day!

Linda Mitchell said...

I cannot thank you enough for the resource you have been and continue to well as poets!

Liz Steinglass said...

Your books and you and Janet are an inspiration to so many kids, teachers, and writers. Thank you for your many contributions. Looking forward to what's next!

skanny17 said...

Those books and those poems stand the test of time even if the times are a-changin' BUT you and Janet are dynamos and visionaries, so it will be exciting to see what your new projects will be. I do believe reaching both teachers AND parents and grands and others is essential so I can tell you will be figuring out all sorts of new ways to bring poetry into the world for all. Since I am writing this a week "late" and saw your new book idea, Hop to It! I do know what is next and love the idea of how this book will make a difference for so many. Bravo!!
Janet Clare F.
PS whenever I get to spend time in classrooms sharing poems and books with the students, well, the reaction is the same. THEY LOVE IT!!!!