A Classroom Book For Our Cityby Steve Replogle, editor
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Many teachers create "classroom books," informal collections of the writing done by the students. It's fun to publish student writing, and it's meaningful, too. Kindergartners or first graders are inevitably thrilled when teachers present them with their "own" books. Even older students such as fourth or fifth graders can't help but feel quite proud of themselves.
The DPS Poetry Library has created classroom books on a city-wide scale. This website presents many of the poems from the anthologies we've published, along with student artwork. There are also essays and information about the entire undertaking.
I'd like to offer a little extra information, too. After editing five volumes of elementary poetry for Denver Public Schools, I have made some discoveries about children, and poetry, and families, and our city. I'd like to share these discoveries.
First, I've learned that childhood experiences are really, actually, truly universal. I think we all know this, but it's a little less clear how it works. Through these collections of poetry, I've learned that a first grader is able to offer important lessons to a fourth grader, just as a fifth grader has much to share about Kindergarten life.
Of course, the rest of us recognize ourselves in the poems of childhood, don't we? Teachers, parents, and relatives - in other words, all of us grown-up children - can still shed a tear or explode into giggles when the right poem comes along. When that happens, we remember how much we have in common, and that's good to remember.
For the last several years, I've hosted an annual reception for the publication of the poetry books, one time at the Denver Public Library, another time at the Tattered Cover LoDo store. It's a combination publishing party and poetry reading. I've witnessed many loving tears shed at this event, and seen families sharing a lot of giggles as well.
I've also caught a glimpse of Denver at its best, and that's the second observation I'd like to share. Our city struggles with many divisions, and these conflicts often manifest at school board sessions or PTA meetings. At our reception, however, families from different schools come together. Different schools from different neighborhoods usually means a whole lot of differences – differences of class and culture, ethnicity, politics, faith. Such divisions are set aside at our poetry receptions. Parents listen to the poems, they share in those universal childhood experiences... and they applaud each others' children. It's lovely.
The third observation I'd like to share is that good poetry can be written at any age. Perhaps that goes without saying, but I don't mean it in a merely sentimental way. I mean that in the course of editing these books, I have come upon poems that are so stunning that they are beyond both tears and giggles. You simply have to sit back as they echo within your heart. And then you take a deep breath, and read them again.
I'm sure you will find poems like that here. In fact, why wait any longer? Please enjoy these poems, created by our children and meant for our city. If you are interested in finding the books themselves, they are on the shelf at each library in every elementary school in Denver.
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(Photos on this page are from our first reception, held at Denver Public Library in 2009)