Poetry in the School Library

The following is a guest post by Rebeca Newland, the Teacher in Residence at the Library of Congress for 2013-14.

Library of Congress 2013-2014 Teacher-In-Residence Rebecca Newland

Library of Congress 2013-2014 Teacher-In-Residence Rebecca Newland

Most students leave high school having studied Shakespeare, the howls of Beowulf and Grendel in battle, and a smattering of American poets. Beyond the study of canonical poems and poets, how can we foster a love for poetry in our children?

The school librarian can play a crucial role. The American Association of School Librarians, in its Standards for the 21st Century Learner (2007), calls for librarians to guide students to “respond to literature and creative expressions of ideas in various formats and genres” (4.1.3) and “show an appreciation for literature by electing to read for pleasure and expressing an interest in various literary genres” (4.2.4).

Here are some ideas:

  • Instead of a storybook for our youngest students, why not read a series of poems? They can respond verbally or with drawings.
  • Older elementary and middle school students can write a poem using small magnet boards with magnetic poetry sets. Leave the poems around the library for others to read, or take digital pictures to preserve the glorious use of words. Use the pictures to create a bulletin board for National Poetry Month.
  • Greet students as they come into the building with a band of roving troubadours (the drama teacher will probably have a list of kids who would love a performance opportunity).
  • Use Poem Pops (reading a short catchy poem) once a week in the morning announcements. Students can visit the library later to pick up a copy of the poem and find out more about its author.
  • Find poems to share with the lunchtime crowd every day on Poetry 180.
  • Use the Library of Congress collections to play poetry aloud as students come in for classes or during quiet times instead of music.

Because the library is an essential gathering place in the school, why not host a Poetry Café? Ask students to come to the library for a special event during lunchtime. Provide hot chocolate and tea and maybe even cookies. Allow students to bring a bagged lunch. Then set your tables with battery powered electric candles, dim the lights, and get out your beret. Ask students to read a favorite poem or one they have written. Provide a few ear catching poems, including those by United States Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, for students who want to participate but need help finding something to read. Engage students in conversation about the beauty and power of words in the form of poetry. Spend time celebrating poetry in a setting that encourages expression and fun. Some of your most enthusiastic readers might want to form a Poetry Out Loud team.

The library is a venue where we can surround our kids with opportunities to read, hear, and fall in love with poetry.


Hello Poetry Lovers!

The following is a guest post by William Thompson, administrative specialist for the Library of Congress American Folklife Center. My name is Brock Thompson, and this fall I’ve started working as the program coordinator for the Poetry and Literature Center. A native of Toad Suck, Arkansas, and an historian by trade, I am so delighted […]

Kluge Center Spotlight: Francesca Bratton on Hart Crane

The following is a guest post by Jason Michael David Steinhauer, program specialist in the Library of Congress Office of Scholarly Programs. The John W. Kluge Center welcomes promising young scholars from the United Kingdom to conduct research at the Library of Congress. The scholars—all currently pursuing doctorate degrees—are funded by the Arts and Humanities […]

A Thanksgiving Poem for Lincoln

On October 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation that declared “the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise.” Lincoln’s famous Thanksgiving Day proclamation was in large part undertaken at the urging of  Sarah Josepha Hale—poet, novelist, editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, and, lest we forget, author of the […]

W. H. Auden and Benjamin Britten

On Friday, one of our sister blogs, the Music Division’s In the Muse, marked the hundredth birthday of British composer Benjamin Britten. Highlighting some of Music Division’s important Britten holdings, the post references a recording of Britten’s collaborator Peter Pears reciting W. H. Auden’s sonnet “The Composer” as part of a 1980 program at the […]

A Mushaira with the Parents

The following is a guest post from Samia Khan, who works as a classification assistant in the Library of Congress Office of Workforce Acquisitions. When Rob Casper asked me to write a post about my personal experience with poetry and literature, I was initially clueless. A History major in college, I hadn’t really read or […]

A Day of Celebration

The following is a guest post by Abby Yochelson, English and American Literature Reference Specialist at the Library of Congress’s Main Reading Room. “Capitol Hill is not just a place of politics but of language.”—Emma Snyder, Executive Director, PEN/Faulkner Foundation On September 30th—one day before the maelstrom of the federal government shutdown—our corner of Capitol […]

Goodbye to the Library

The following is a guest post from Caitlin Rizzo, who recently left the Library of Congress to become the program manager at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD. Caitlin worked first as a Junior Fellow, then as the program support assistant, at the Poetry and Literature Center; she was also one of the three blog […]