A family who reads together

Hi everyone,

As I told you, this past weekend Sandy’s cousin Leslie Johnson was here with her husband Johnnie and three children Caleb, Hannah, and Grace. Grace starts school this fall. Hannah goes into 5th grade and Caleb will be a 7th grader. 20150801_125808_resizedAll three kids have been brought up on books and are excellent readers. One or our activities was to take turns reading poems from my book with Tim Rasinski and Gay Fawcett, PARTNER POEMS FOR BUILDING FLUENCY.IMG_4677 This is a book written for teachers for which I wrote forty-two poems for two or more voices.IMG_4681 When Grace saw the book, she wouldn’t put it down until Sandy and I had taken turns reading nearly every poem in it with her. We didn’t want to stop reading with her either.IMG_4696 Some lucky teacher is going to love having a first grader who already loves books and reads with fluency, understanding, and feeling.

The whole time they were here no one asked to turn on a television. The kids were outside for much of the time. They swam and played games.IMG_4700They were curious about their surroundings and asked a lot of good questions.20150801_200304_resized And they read. Thank you, Leslie and Johnnie, for being such great parents. Thank you, Caleb, Hannah, and Grace, for being such good kids.

Year-end wrap-up

Hi everyone,
David on rock 1
For those of you who blog, you’re probably receiving an annual report on how your blog performed during 2013. Here are a few tidbits from mine. I know that there are many blogs that are more active than mine, more professionally done than mine, and draw far more visitors than mine. Still, this one suits me and I have no aspirations to make fundamental changes for 2014. There are times when I scarcely have time to post at all but those of you who regularly drop by to see what’s up are a forgiving group and graciously allow me to sit in the corner for a while to catch up on other obligations. I thank you for your understanding and I thank you for visiting this site as often as you do.

During 2013, the blog was viewed about 57,000 times by people in 150 countries. The most visitors came from the United States, France, and Canada. The way the report reads, it would take roughly the equivalent of 23 sold-out performances at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall for that many people to see it.

I posted 260 times in 2013, bringing the total since 2009 to 1,264. The day with the highest visitor count was March 9 with 2,698. The post was my poem, “The Song of the Tree Frogs,” which originally appeared in 2010.

Of the 5 most popular posts during 2013, only one was posted for the first time during the year and that was when J. Patrick Lewis, who was then our nation’s children’s poet laureate, issued a new poetry challenge on my blog.

Of the list of top five attractions, one appeared for the first time in 2013; three first appeared in 2010; and one came from 2009. A post about poems for two voices — featured in PARTNER POEMS, the book I did with Tim Rasinski and Gay Fawcett, made the list twice, once from its 2009 post and again from when I repeated it in 2010.

The most comments were left by Linda Baie, Catherine Johnson, Jeanne Polond, Jane Heitman Healy, and Matt Forrest.

My thanks to one and all for joining the fun around here during 2013. I am always surprised by the numbers involved in social media communications. Thank you for your comments throughout the year to let me know that you’re there and that you find things to like here.



It’s a Lollity Popity Day

Hi everyone,

My poem for two voices called “It’s a Lollity Popity Day” appears in a book co-written by Tim Rasinski and Gay Fawcett, PARTNER POEMS FOR BUILDING FLUENCY, published by Scholastic.

Our new book

Our new book

I should point out that the book was written with grades 3-5 in mind. At the last minute Scholastic realized that they had another book with the same title for younger grades so they changed the title of ours to read Grades 4-6. We’ve taken some grief over this from teachers who bought the book expecting material for older students. As long as you know to use the book for younger children, it all works out.

The alternating voices build on the opening line.

It’s a lollity popity day
It’s a lollity popity
hide-and-go-seekity day.
It’s a lollity popity
read a good bookity day.
It’s a lollity popity
read a good bookity
roll in the grassity day.

And so on. The fun is to begin reading slowly and increase speed with each new stanza. Both voices finish in a rush and shout “Hooray!”

I introduced the poem at this year’s poetry workshop in Honesdale. A few days ago one of the poets who attended, Patricia Cooley, brought it into her school in Illinois. Here’s Pat’s report.

We had a Lollity Popity Day at Komensky School today! Two of my students were so taken by David’s poem that they made lollipop puppets and went from classroom to classroom throughout the building – hamming it up and performing with a lot of voice and actions to each of his lines. The teachers loved it. David, I am attaching pics of their lollipops. Wish I could send pics showing how cute the students are, but I never post any pics showing their faces or names. You would have been proud of them!

Pat did share her young actors holding up their lollipity popity puppets and here they are. IMG_1744IMG_1745

I am, of course, enormously pleased and proud of the girls behind those charming masks. Pat, thank you so much for introducing the poem and doing it in such a way that your kids saw the fun of it and had such a fine time. Many thanks!


Gay Fawcett today

Hi everyone,

Gay Fawcett was my Featured Guest on November 28, 2009 and a second time on April 16, 2010. She elected to go today with the second post. I loved reading it then and loved it again when I reread it this morning. I think you will too. Gay, thanks again.

What you are about to read is one of the most compelling, heartfelt stories we have had the honor to present to you. I’ve had a hard time holding it back this long. You deserve to read Gay Fawcett’s message. I guarantee that you will be moved. Read on!


By Gay Fawcett, Ph.D.

Some people wouldn’t call it poetry–the words, rhythms, and rhymes that surrounded me as a child. But it was poetry, and I needed it–sometimes almost desperately.My home was filled with poetry, albeit not the traditional poetry of scholars and bards. My mother, with her poor Appalachian background and not-quite-finished high school education, didn’t read to me the lilting lyrics of Dr. Seuss, the rhymes of Mother Goose, or the limericks of Ogden Nash. But my mother did surround me with the playfulness of poetry. She taught me to play with words as she pointed to my fingers chanting, ‘’Acky backy, soda cracker, acky backy boo, acky backy, soda cracker, out goes y-o-u!’’ until all the fingers were out of the game. I learned the subtleties of language as I heard the same jokes and riddles over and over: ‘’Pete and Repeat went down to the river…’’ and ‘’How do you make Budweiser? Send him to school.’’ I was painfully shy, so I needed that playfulness–sometimes almost desperately. Armed with the confidence of ‘’Acky backy,’’ I could engage my playmates in word games for hours until I forgot my own shyness. My father filled my life with poetry. He didn’t read to me Shakespeare’s sonnets, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s love poems, or William Blake’s lyrical verse. But my father surrounded me with the music of poetry as he played his guitar and sang. He taught me that words can express emotions with his nasal-twanged tales of lost love: ‘’Your cheatin’ heart, will tell on you. You’ll walk the floor, the whole night through.’’ He taught me that words can evoke lasting mental pictures with ballads of everyday events amplified by imagination: ‘’Kowlijah was a wooden Indian standing by the door. Fell in love with an Indian maiden over in the antique store.’’

School was dreadfully boring for me, so I needed that music–sometimes almost desperately. With tunes in my head, I turned my list of spelling words into songs and made jingles of the multiplication tables until I began to enjoy the challenge I made of school.

My best friend forced poetry into my life. She didn’t sit with me on the front porch and quote the silliness of A. A. Milne’s mind, the double meanings of Robert Frost’s world, or the anguish of Poe’s soul. But my best friend surrounded me with the utility of poetry as she challenged me with jump rope jingles: ‘’Mabel, Mabel set the table, and don’t forget the red hot peppers!’’ and taunted me: ‘’Tattletale, tattletale, swinging on a bull’s tail!’’ I was a self-conscious child, so I needed that utility–sometimes almost desperately. I became clever at word wars and quick with sing-song retorts until I nearly forgot myself.

My gentle Sunday school teacher shared her precious poetry with me. She didn’t raise my social consciousness with the pleas of Langston Hughes, the passions of Nikki Giovanni, or the reflections of Emily Dickinson. But my Sunday school teacher surrounded me with the peace of poetry as she shared her beloved Psalms: ‘’What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.’’’ She made me aware of inner strength with her favorite Proverbs: ‘’A cheerful heart doeth good like a medicine.’’

Tortured with memories of a stranger’s assault, I needed that peace–sometimes almost desperately. When the lights were out or I was home alone, I could direct my memory to the King James verses until I nearly forgot the shiny knife and the menacing threat.

Some people wouldn’t call it poetry, but it was poetry. It was words, and rhythm, and rhyme. But more importantly, it was playfulness, music, emotions, mental images, utility, peace, and inner strength. I’ve needed it all my life–sometimes almost desperately. As a young mother with a tiny fevered boy on my lap, ‘’Acky, backy soda cracker’’ served me till wee hours of the morning when, exhausted, he fell asleep. As I struggled with the loss of a friend, the music of poetry expressed my grief. When I wanted to lash out in anger at my colleagues, poetry spilled onto the page. When I stood overlooking the Shenandoah Valley, ‘’Be still and know that I am God,’’ swept over me.

Poetry surrounds my life. Sometimes it’s my own poetry; sometimes it’s the poetry of others. When I can’t find words, poetry answers for me. When a turn of events doesn’t make sense, poetry reassures me. When I want to give up, poetry rescues me. When I need to escape, poetry takes me away. Poetry gives meaning to my life, because it surrounded me as a child.

Children today have the same needs I had as a child. Some are shy, some are bored, some lack confidence in themselves, and some are afraid. But children today face much greater challenges than I did. Children today need poetry more than ever. Certainly poetry can’t change the social structure of our inner cities; but poetry can give children some desperately needed playfulness. Poetry can’t heal broken families; but poetry can give children some desperately needed peace. Poetry can’t provide a solid education for all children; but poetry can give children some desperately needed utility. Poetry can’t feed hungry bellies; but poetry can give children some desperately needed inner strength.

Children desperately need poetry. They need the rambunctious poetry of Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky, the contemplative poetry of Jeff Moss and Charlotte Zolotow, the playful poetry of Lewis Carroll and Judith Viorst, and the quiet poetry of Elizabeth Coatsworth and Christina Rossetti. Children also need the everyday poetry of moms and dads, teachers, and friends. They need words that dance with rhythm and rhyme when they are feeling playful. They need words to quiet them when they are afraid. They need words to express anger and hurt. They need words to show they care. Children today need poetry–sometimes almost desperately!This Features article is reprinted with permission from Childrens Book Council.

If you are as moved by Gay’s words as I am, I hope you will let her know. My thanks once again to Gay Fawcett.


Gay Fawcett coming Wednesday

THANKS again to Marc Simon for being my Featured Guest last Thursday/Friday. Marc won the highest scholarship given this year by Writers Hall of Fame to a graduating high school student on the way toward working as a writer. Again our congratulations and good wishes go with Marc and all the other students who received scholarships this year to help them pursue their careers in writing.

Hi everyone,

As part of my summer program of bringing back Featured Guests, it will be my privilege to feature Gay Fawcett on Wednesday. Many of you are already friends and fans of Gay. Please don’t miss her post. It’s one of my favorites!

For now, here’s another look at her bio. Typical of Gay, it is modestly brief.

Gay Fawcett is a former teacher, principal, curriculum director, and director of Kent State University’s Research Center for Educational Technology. She now teaches online and face-to-face university courses, consults with schools, and writes (of course!). She has authored or co-authored over 100 educational articles, book chapters, and books. She collaborated with David Harrison and Tim Rasinski on the recently published Partner Poems for Building Fluency: Grades 4-6.