Our 4th and 5th graders participated in a webinar with Kwame Alexander today. The webinar was to celebrate Read Across America Day and was sponsored by Learning Ally. As soon as Learning Ally announced this free event back in November, I registered our school. I didn’t care that I had no clue what would be happening on March 1, 2019. I just knew I wanted our students to have some exposure to this giant-hearted author.
Kwame’s (I don’t know why I feel I can call him by his first name, but it feels good.) theme was “Say ‘Yes’ to the Possibility and Power of Poetry.” He shared the story of his reading life and development as a poet. Kwame involved the students by having them participate verbally in saying “Yes!” He pumped us up with his positivity that we can change the world one word at a time.
He shared a lot of things about his books, but the words that really caught my attention went something like this: Books are amusement parks and kids gotta be able to choose their own rides. Such an important message that we have to keep fighting for.
The other poignant moment for me as a writer was when he said that poetry has to have the right ingredients and be prepared well (like good food) for people to want to come back for more. He used a meal of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and mac ‘n cheese as an example. Would you return to the home where the fried chicken was raw inside, the mashed potatoes runny, and the mac ‘n cheese dry? Or would you want to return to crisp, fall-off-the-bone fried chicken, fluffy mashed potatoes, and mac ‘n cheese made from scratch with 5 different cheeses? I had to ask myself if I’m writing in a way that makes others want to come back for more. What should I change? Is it the ingredients or the presentation that needs work? As I write that question, I know it’s both.
All to say, there was a happy outcome – all three fifth grade classes are going to listen to The Crossover. Kids practically begged the librarian to be first to check out our two copies. Others asked their teachers to load it on their Learning Ally accounts. Yay for reading!