Friday, September 12, 2008


I've been thinking a lot this year about the power books can have in kids' lives. Yesterday, Cynthia's Lord's blog made me cry (read the last item, about her visit to a school earlier this week).

This year, I moved to a new school. And the kids' lives are really, really hard. Most of our kids are very, very poor. They come to school in shoes that have soles that flap, and without jackets on chilly fall mornings. They eat yucky cafeteria food for breakfast and lunch and ask for seconds, because they don't know whether there will be dinner at home. Every Friday, and especially at the end of the month, kids tell us they are going to a new school on Monday. At least once a week, a child tells a story that makes me feel like I have been punched in the gut, hard.

I want my kids to know that they are not alone, that even though their lives are hard, they will survive, other people have walked through this too, and that they will be ok. One of the best ways I know to do that, is to share amazing books about people that have survived hard things. Right now, I am reading HOW TO STEAL A DOG  to my fourth and fifth graders. They love this book, mostly, I think, because Georgina, the main character, whose family is living in their car, has a life so much like their own. 

This week, I ran across this poem, "Dear Author," in THANKS A MILLION by Nikki Grimes (Greenwillow Books, 2006). The book is a collection of "gratitude poems," a book I bought to help me remember to give thanks all year round. 

"Dear Author" 
Nikki Grimes

Dear Author,
      When my father died last year,
Somebody threw a switch and turned me off.
I couldn't breathe. Or cry.
My family wondered why.

     Months passed, and they figured
I must be ok. But they were wrong.
I leaked sadness everywhere I went.
No one seemed to notice or undersatand.
Until Lotus, the girl in your last book.
She was also drowning deep inside.
Some nights, I'd crawl between the pages
of that novel and hide for hours.

The two of you made all the difference.
I just thought you'd want to know.


Poetry Friday this week is at Biblio File.


Barbara H. said...

What a poignant, expressive poem. I remember "leaking sadness" after my mother died (and I still do at times.)

I love what you are doing in trying to inspire kids (and others).

Laura Benson said...

What a radiant blessing you are to your students and to all of us...You bring us messages and hope and pearls of Grace we could never know without YOU! Sending you gratitude wrapped in your Dad's leather coat as we sit together with stories and photographs of our boys...