In a September 2007 e-mail exchange, Mary Jo Fresch, who taught in the School of Teaching and Learning, College of Education and Human Ecology at the Ohio State University, suggested, “Once you get done with Tim and the fluency book….maybe we should talk about poetry that early childhood educators could use to help develop phonemic awareness.” She was referring to Tim Rasinski and the book in progress was Partner Poems.
As our exchanges continued, Mary Jo said, “Phonological awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate sounds of English. This would be a resource for teachers to have students do sound matching, blending, isolation, addition, subtraction and substitution — all with poetry.” She would provide lists of phonic sounds, I would write a poem inspired by each sound, and she would follow up with classroom activities teachers could use with their students. “How many poems are we talking about here,” I asked. “Quite a few,” she said. “There are 37 rimes plus several other lists.” I wondered if I really could create that many poems, each inspired by nothing more than a single sound.
On my annual trip to New York City that fall I met with the director of Teaching Resources at Scholastic to review my book with Tim and while there I pitched the book with Mary Jo and me. The idea found interest so we were off and running. In April, 2008, Mary Jo sent the list of rimes and I settled down to see what I could do with ack, ail, ain, ake, ale, ame, and 31 one more sounds. In July I sent Mary Jo my first six efforts, including this one, SNACK ATTACK, inspired by the sound “ack.”
When my brother
needs a snack,
he opens every
box and pack,
pile and stack,
jar and sack,
looks like he
(c) 2013 David L. Harrison, all rights reserved
After two months of reviews by Scholastic, our project was turned down because they decided it might overlap with something they already had. We tried IRA. After 13 months of working and reworking the developing manuscript for their needs, the required peer reviews came in. Two liked our manuscript a lot. The third liked it but picked at one point. Based on that, we were turned down. Still thinking and writing, we tried Heinemann, then Corwin, then Brookes, then Pearson, then Stenhouse. One near miss after another. We finally found the perfect home at Teacher Created Materials. It took another 14 months between the time we submitted and the time the contract was offered, and the original book idea had expanded into five books — LEARNING THROUGH POETRY — but we got it done.
Mary Jo and I were flown to the Shell/TCM headquarters in Huntington Beach, California where we recorded all 96 poems in the 5-volume set. When I occasionally show the picture of us in a sound booth, that’s where it came from.