Saturday, October 14, 2006

JACK PRELUTSKY CHOSEN AS AMERICA’S FIRST CHILDREN’S POET LAUREATE

Last month The Poetry Foundation, which publishes the long-lived and venerable Poetry magazine, inaugurated a new Pegasus Award choosing Jack Prelutsky as their first Children’s Poet Laureate. For those of us who grew up with the magic and delight of Prelutsky’s original verse for children and, like us, always eagerly await his next book, it is a choice that seems apt and ineluctable. It’s one that we all celebrate. Prelutsky was chosen for his body of work as both a writer of original children’s verse and as an honored editor of poetry anthologies for children, work done over a career that has spanned 40 years and includes the publication of 35 books. Recently, Prelutsky has created one of our favorite books on children’s poetry, Read A Rhyme, Write a Rhyme, a book designed to encourage children to create their own verses by showing examples of poems and offering poem “starters” that children can complete.
The Poetry Foundation recognized Prelutsky’s work as a way of advocating an interest in children’s poetry to a wider audience, and indeed the value of introducing the enjoyment and appreciation of poetry to children seems to be much overlooked. Because of the way library book collections are organized, it’s easy to miss the children’s poetry section at your library entirely. Poetry books are on the shelves in the non-fiction area of the library, not in the juvenile picture book area, even though most children’s poetry books are as handsomely illustrated as the best picture books. So you have to go out of your way to explore the riches of your library’s poetry collection for children. But as readers of Prelutsky and other children’s poets know, it is worth the effort, for poetry teaches not just reading, but let’s a child discover the delight in language itself, the potential power and expressiveness of words, and the subtle yet critical nature of grammar and punctuation in constructing meaning in the written word. The next time you are in the children’s section of your local library, plan to take a look at the poetry collection. You’ll be surprised and delighted, and so will your children. Congratulations, and thanks Jack.

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