Friday, September 30, 2022

September Definito Poem Challenge

Happy Poetry Friday! I'm interrupting our current blog series to share my response to this month's Poetry Friday community challenge to write a definito poem. As Tanita Davis explained in her post introducing the challenge, a definito is a free verse poem of 8-12 lines (aimed at readers 8-12 years old) that highlights wordplay as it demonstrates the meaning of a less common word, which itself always ends the poem. Heidi Mordhorst created the form.

I found my "less common word" thanks to Linda Mitchell's blog post at the end of last month. In that post, Linda shared a link to a list of uncommon words on the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. What an intriguing list! You can see the word I chose in my definito below. (I'm also working on a longer free verse poem using the same word.)

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

I'm looking forward to checking out this week's Poetry Friday roundup hosted by Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference to see other definitos.

Be sure to check back here next week when Esther Hershenhorn wraps up our series on "One Book I Learned from Over the Past Year."

Happy writing!

Friday, September 16, 2022

Stories Don't End


 You may remember, I have a cat. His name is Apollo. I met him when he was six months old. He was staying at a rescue home at the time, and didn't like it. I didn’t want a cat, much less a rambunctious kitten. But he was quite persuasive. I never had a chance.

So Apollo took me home, where he met Comma. Comma took to him immediately. The three of us took great care of each other.

Some time ago, Comma had to leave us. He had always been small and sickly. Neither Apollo nor I wanted him to go, but Comma was the wisest of us, and knew better.

So, it was just me and Apollo, together. A family for many years. Not sure when or how it happened, actually, when one day he couldn’t walk as he once ran. He developed kidney disease, and diabetes. Then he told me it was time for him to leave. He missed Comma, too.

I argued, of course. But he could be quite persuasive.

On Sept. 1, Apollo joined Comma. We had been together for seventeen years. I’ve been quite discombobulated ever since, and couldn’t find a story to share.

As it happens, inspiration – or solace, whatever is needed in the moment – comes from this reminder how important your story is.

Thank you for reading.

-- Bobbi Miller

About the image: For more inspiration about A Mighty Girl, see their blog at A Mighty Girl.

Friday, September 2, 2022

No Voice Too Small

     When my daughter was little, she once asked me why I spent my time as an activist trying to save public education and not trying to stop global warming (as it was called at that time before it was expanded). Her logic was that education justice would not matter if we didn’t have a planet to live on. I paused for a moment before answering, not knowing the answer myself. And then I responded with my own logic. If education was lost, then we wouldn’t have a chance at saving the planet. Only through an educated global population could we begin to mitigate global warming. And so, I continued my work to struggle to maintain an equitable public education with my union and other organizations as well as working in my classroom to develop as a child-centered educator. I was sure I could be a part of positive change in my own little corner of the world.

     Years later, I still believe that losing public education for all would be a travesty, but I am beginning to see that it is undeniably time to actively work to mitigate climate change in a more focused way. Again, I feel like I can only work effectively on climate change in my own little corner of the world. And so, my path leads me back through education and to the very young people I am tasked with guiding.

     There was a moment when Greta Thunberg dominated the news cycle and my kindergarteners pre-Covid became intrigued by her work. This group of young 5-year-olds were interested in what global warming was, what caused it, and eventually they wondered what could be done. The energy of the group took on a life of its own that lead to questions about how to change policy specifically around climate change. We had a staffer from our state senator’s office come and talk about his job focusing on climate change bills. The students’ interest culminated in the writing of policy recommendations that I delivered to our city, state, and federal policy makers. It amazed me how much these young people thought deeply and expansively about such critical matters.

     My own experience with the powerful voices of very young people led me to the book that I learned from this year. No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History edited by Lindsey H. Metcalf, Keila V. Dawson, and Jeanette Bradley and beautifully illustrated by Jeanette Bradley. The picture book combines very short biographies, illustrations, and poetry by 14 different poets to tell the stories of 14 young changemakers. The picture book is laid out in a way that educators from kindergarten to high school can utilize the stories of these young activists to engage other young activists. It’s just what the world needs now. 

See Book Trailer Here

My current students are especially drawn to the illustrations. I am especially drawn to the poetry that precedes the introduction of each new activist. My students engage with the stories especially  because they can relate to the children who are celebrated in the book. This year we have already begun recognizing power and the ability to speak out using this important piece of literature. This spring, this same team will launch their companion title, No World Too Big: Young People Fighting Global Climate Change. I am so moved by the first book, No Voice Too Small, that I am including them in a climate activism project that I am developing with my kindergarten class this year. 

     Building the conditions for climate activism to occur with young children, I am working with environmental organizations in Los Angeles to create field trips to natural habitats to build a foundation of environmental engagement. I am partnering with policy-makers to create policy engagement. I am anxiously anticipating the second book, No World Too Big and I have reached out to the authors of these books to create literary engagement. I am proud to know Keila and Jeanette through our Kidlit for Growing Minds group. I am hoping to create an event with a local, Los Angeles, independent bookstore, The Book Jewel, that brings together my current students and the creators when they launch their second book this coming spring. 

     I’m not sure what my young daughter had in mind when she questioned my methods, but I feel like have found my way to engage with the ongoing climate crisis. It is my hope that by bringing together organizations that can get children into nature, elected officials  who can demonstrate that young people can and should be able to access and influence policy making, and authors who can write about and inspire young people to tell their stories (which ultimately makes movements), I am doing my own part in my own little corner of the world. 

You can find out more about Kidlit For Growing Minds from our website, our BOOKTALK YouTube channel and our Twitter page. Find our books on our Bookshop Storefront.

Twitter: @ForGrowingMinds

By Zeena M. Pliska