I’m happy to introduce our first guest blogger, Elaine Magliaro! “Elaine M.” was an elementary school teacher and librarian for over 30 years. She is now an Instructor of Children’s Literature at BU, President of MA North Shore Council of the IRA, and on the advisory board of the Keene State College Children's Literature Festival, as well as a gifted poet. Elaine is a passionate enthusiast of children’s literature. She is the kind of champion children depend on and authors are honored and privileged to call friend. This is her blog post:
CHILDREN’S POETRY AND THE CINDERELLA SYNDROME, Part 1
Poetry is the Cinderella—pre-fairy godmother—of children’s literature. It is often a neglected genre in the school curriculum. It is usually relegated to the servants’ quarters of education. Schools do not purchase multiple copies of poetry books for teachers to share and discuss with children in reading groups. Many teachers—and, sad to say, librarians—are unfamiliar with the names of some of our most accomplished children’s poets and their works. And most administrators consider poetry a frill, as literature to be shared with children—if shared at all—when there is that rare free moment in the school day.
Alas! Children’s poetry usually doesn’t get invited to the royal ball either. It is seldom honored with the “big” award. To my knowledge, just two poetry books have been recipients of the Newbery Medal since 1922: Nancy Willard’s A Visit to William Blake’s Inn in 1982 and Paul Fleischman’s Joyful Noise in 1989. Surely, there have been other poetry books published over the years worthy of acknowledgement. Am I mistaken to infer that the people who are most knowledgeable in the world of children’s literature also perceive poetry as a genre that is less important than fiction and other nonfiction? Why are there so few Prince Charmings willing to squire Cinderella Poetry around town unless she’s all dolled up for a special event? If I were Rodney Dangerfield, I might opine on the state of poetry for children: It don’t get no respect.
Furthermore, one is likely to find few poetry books written by authors other than Jack Prelutsky or Shel Silverstein on the shelves of chain bookstores. Me thinks children’s poetry is in need of a very aggressive fairy godmother! Well, I hope it will have a mentor with magical powers in the person of Jack Prelutsky himself. Prelutsky was recently named our first Children’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. Maybe he will be able to wave a wand and do what no one has ever done before: Bring children’s poetry into the spotlight where it can shine and shimmer and have an abundance of positive attention bestowed upon it. Maybe he will raise the profile of poetry so it will no longer be treated like the stepchild of children’s literature.
To be continued (Part 2 tomorrow!)...