105 Ways to Give a Book

Poetry Friday: Speak To Me (Again)

Speak To Me (And I Will LIsten Between The Lines)I posted this poem a year ago, but it’s time to mention it again. I don’t know that I can verify that it captures the feel of an urban school, but I do know that it really captures the feeling of third graders. Feeling pride in an eighth birthday. Worrying about losing a best friend to another girl in the class. Daydreaming. Saving a seat at lunch. Each poem is told from the point of the view of one of the kids in the class, most of whom are African American. Oh, and the illustrations are also perfect.

So here’s a poem from Karen English’s book, Speak To Me (And I Will Listen Between The Lines).
The Reading Boy [Malcolm]

Omar came on Monday
We liked him quick because he can read
As good as the teacher

Tyrell looked at him long and hard
As the river of words flowed out of his mouth
On one breath
The reading boy

Lamont asked to change his seat
To the one by the reading boy
Who sang the words off the page

Teacher asked him a question
And everyone listened
He is the one who reads.
Last year I noted how this particular poem felt even more relevant after seeing an article in the Washington Post Magazine about a third-grade teacher who started at a D.C. school, and realized that none of her students could read yet. In my suburban community, we obsess (it seems) about our kids reading the “right books.” It seems even more ridiculous when you look across the river at a community that needs to read, period.

Poetry Friday round-up is over at HipWriterMama.


TadMack said...

Ooh, amen, sister - how can anyone worry about what kids are or aren't reading when there still are some who don't even have that option presented to them?! A little relevance, please!?

AMY S. said...

yeah, we're trying to figure out our grade level configurations at my very high risk school, and a third grade teacher almost cried as she described the challenge of teaching 28 children. She said a third of them are still reading on a first grade level.

This is a really great poem from a fantastic book, though. I feel it totally captures the energy of the kids at my school. Even my tough edged fifth grade boys read it over and over.

Sara said...

I'm going to find this book. I want to hug that "reading boy"...and Lamont, who wants to sit near him.

Charlotte said...

I remember this one from last year, and how I liked it...thanks again!

Mary Lee said...

This sounds like a great new book for my collection!

Kelly Fineman said...

Great poem choice, and a sad reminder of how we're letting so many of our kids down.

I'll have to look for the book.

Cloudscome said...

What a touching poem. In just a few words she sums it all up. We have this book in our library and I love it.

It ought to be a crime that we tolerate this inequity for our children.

Judy said...

I worked in an inner city school where 85% were on free or reduced lunch, 25% were identified as having special needs and another 25% had English as a Second Language. In the program at the school almost every child made at least a year's growth in any given year, but we still did poorly on the standardized testing. And the City administration blamed the teachers. Can someone explain how teachers can have kids at level by third grade when so many of them come in with no basic skills... some not even knowing what a crayon IS, much less how to use it? I can sympathize with Amy S's teacher friend.

It IS a great poem, and I will look for the book to read the rest.

Andrea Beaty said...

MotherReader said: It seems even more ridiculous when you look across the river at a community that needs to read, period.

Amen to that!
Andrea Beaty