The Missouri Reader Vol. 42, Issue 2 - Page 9

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Thinking Aloud to Build Students’ Comprehension

by

Molly Ness

9

A Camel Ride in the Desert

Climb aboard

while it is resting

when it lifts you

you will slide.

Hold the hump tight.

Wear your hat

or soon you’ll think

your head is fried.

You may whisper,

you may hum,

you may mutter,

you may sing,

but the camel will ignore you

and not utter anything.

There is silence in the desert

and a sameness to the land;

lots of sun

and miles and miles

of peanut butter colored sand.

© 2018 by Constance Levy, all rights reserved

Reprinted with permission of the author

Like many new experiences, this one has stayed with me for years and returns now and then, when I see a camel, a real one, at the zoo or in a movie. A Camel Ride in the Desert” had to “cook” my brain for a while until the right magic moment when the image and senses were ready for some words. That is just the beginning of the process; the finished poem took time and many thinking sessions before I found the way to tell the story of my camel adventure. It had a scary beginning for me as the camel lifted its top-heavy body and that is where I decided to begin. I knew when the words begin to get playful and start working together that the poem was happily on its way. The rhythm and form fell in place and after some tweaking all the elements seemed to be comfortable together. As for the adventure itself, I don’t think I’ll be repeating this one.

-- Constance Levy

Given what we know, poetry should be well represented in every school library and classroom. Yet most school book collections are sorely lacking in poetry titles. A large majority of them include the same three poets: Shel Silverstein -- who died in 1999, Ted Geisel -- who died in 1991, and Jack Prelutsky. What this tells us is that too many buyers of poetry (educators, the public) fail to see poetry for what it is – a living, vibrant genre practiced by many poets who collectively provide a wide variety of poems for virtually every taste and occasion.

Vardell (2014) identifies sixty-six children’s poets nationwide whose work is worth “buying, collecting, reading, and sharing.” In a country of 325.7 million people, that’s still only an average of 1.32 “known” children’s poets per state! Missouri has four established children’s poets -- Constance Levy, Peggy Archer, Amy E. Sklansky, and David L. Harrison -- in a state of 6.114 million people with 2,405 public schools, 66,248 teachers, and 917,900 students (2013 figures). Are there other poets across the country? Sure. Look in any good children’s magazine and you’ll find child-friendly poems by talented poets. But poets are still a rare breed in spite of the fact that what they produce can have such a positive impact on developing literacy skills.

WHY CAN POETRY BE A GAME CHANGER?

When I worked with students at an international school in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, forty-two languages were spoken there. Together we had fun reading and writing poetry. I loved listening to their stories told as poems. It was something we all shared in common. According to Graves (2002), “Children’s stories will reveal most of who they are if they trust us to read or listen with understanding. Every story bespeaks the teller’s wish… When we attend to children’s stories, we establish probably the best foundation for their own future as learners.” What made poems meaningful for those children from so many

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