Holly Valentine | April 2021

Books Celebrating
National Poetry Month

April, cherished by so many as National Poetry Month, is also a time where we see the world waking up from winter and colors start to come alive again.  This month we celebrate both of those things with books that use poetry to inspire student voice as well as to wake ourselves up with color and a closer look at a woman who lived and breathed color. Before CATCHing your literacy sparks this month, let’s take a quick look at all of them. 

Words with Wings and One Last Word

If you don’t know author and poet Nikki Grimes, you should. The recipient of the 2017 Children’s Literature Legacy Medal and the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in poetry, you need to do a deep dive into all of her work. She is an author who should be read by adults and students alike, as she reminds us about the magic and power of words in such a seemingly easy way in all that she does. Words with Wings is a novel written in short verse, and while it may be a quick read at first, a second and even third reading will find you diving so deeply into the world and emotions of Gabby, a daydreamer.

Grimes’ One Last Word highlights classic and inspirational poetry, showing us how those master poems inspired her own original work through a unique poetic method called the Golden Shovel. She explains how it is done, and both you and your students will naturally want to try it out or yourself. Nikki’s website has a wealth of materials for teachers and students. Her published works are truly amazing and inspiring. 

Woke

A current, important book of poetry with all new poems written by women of color, Woke will be sure to launch important conversations in your classroom and have students thinking about what it means to be ‘woke’ as well as using their voices and the power of words to create change and make a difference. Not all of these poems are easy to read, but they are important. By having them, it will allow your students to see that even at their age, they have the power to make a difference in the world. 

Mary Blair

If I asked you to think about the ride “It’s a Small World” in Disney World or Disneyland, I am willing to bet many of us would conjure similar images. But do you know who created that look, or the original look of Cinderella or Alice in Wonderland in the animated films and original Golden Books? That was Mary Blair and her unique flair. She saw the world vividly through color and fought against a world traditionally seen by men in very black and white terms.

Walt Disney saw things in the same unique way and together, they broke the rules and have continued to inspire countless numbers of children and adults alike. Two fabulously creative books about Mary Blair pair well for all students beginning with our youngest learners. 

TS Eliot’s Cats

The musical theatre world was taken by storm when Andrew Lloyd Weber created the musical sensation CATS. Did you know that was inspired by a book of poetry originally written in the 1930’s? Incredibly rich in vocabulary, characterization and personality, your students will rise to the occasion and be exposed to classic literature, while bringing characters to like in their minds. This is a perfect way to introduce musical theatre to students, allowing them to hear these poems through music and the soundtrack to the show. 

DOWNLOAD ALL SIX

Go CATCH a Spark!

Find an access point, no matter whether it’s the Context, the Arts, the Themes, a way to Create or those special Heart Words. The important thing is to remember that through books we give our kids access points, connections and the inspiration to be creative. So go grab a book, take a deeper dive in, CATCH a Spark and celebrate National Poetry Month!

Don’t be left in the dark – check out the previously published CATCH a Spark series:

About the Author

Holly Valentine is the Director of Curriculum and Assessment for the Institute for Arts Integration and Steam. Prior to joining the Institute, Holly worked as an Arts Integration and Classroom Teacher for 20 years in a suburb of Rochester, NY. She is a certified Arts Integration Specialist and has served as an Arts Standards Writer for the New York State Education Department. Holly has been a recipient of the NYC Broadway League's Apple Award for her work in Arts Education. She also serves as the Director of Education for the Rochester Broadway Theatre League, where she has created nationally recognized programs and develops standards-based curriculum for touring Broadway shows in order to bring the theatre to classrooms and classrooms to the theatre. Holly holds both a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre and Psychology as well as a Masters degree in Education from Nazareth College in Rochester, NY,  where she currently lives.