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A Poem a Day

Teacher Education professor Terrell Young was recently appointed to selection committee to choose the best children’s poetry authors.

4 February 2013 0 Comments

Terrell Young has spent 25 years collecting the thousands of children’s books stacked in his office, and spent just as many years teaching his students to love reading from those books. Thus his recent appointment to serve as a member of the Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children Selection Committee for the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) is not surprising.

Young, a professor in the Department of Teacher Education, will serve on the selection committee for the next three years. Every other year he and his fellow committee members will select a poet who has made outstanding contributions to the genre of children’s poetry. He will also help create a list of the best poetry for children in each grade of elementary and middle school.

Young said poetry comes naturally to children. “We want to immerse kids in the elementary grades in poetry and make sure they have an appreciation and love for it before we ever expect them to start writing poems on their own, or before we ask them to analyze or memorize poetry.” Positive attitudes often change when students enter high school because they are asked to analyze and interpret more complex poetry.

Young claims that poetry is a great genre. “[It is] well focused and concise, so it’s something that works well with children and with students with disabilities,” he said. “[Also] there’s such a breadth of poetry— there’s everything from the really funny things like Shel Silverstein, to much more serious poetry for kids.” 

" I think one of the best things teachers can do is to read a poem a day to their students."

Young has some suggestions for teachers to integrate poetry into the classroom. “I think one of the best things teachers can do is to read a poem a day to their students,” he said. He also suggests reading the same poem over and over for a week so that by the end of the week students will be able to internalize it. Young also insists poetry can fit in with any area of curriculum. Poems are available on history, math, geography, and science so teachers can find a way to make poetry a part of any lesson.

A few of Young’s favorite children’s poets are Marilyn Singer, Nikki Grimes, Janet Wong, Naomi Shihab Nye, J. Patrick Lewis and, Joyce Sidman, this year’s NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children winner.

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