Friday, July 4, 2014

Literary World Loss

This week, the literary world heard of the passing of Walter Dean Myers, a giant in the young adult literature field. This gentle man was a favorite at literacy conferences and at two of those, New York State Reading Conference and a TCRWP Saturday Reunion, I heard him speak. I was even fortunate enough to have a few moments to communicate with him about the powerful texts he wrote.  Humbly and with compassion, Myers always spoke of his craft and what he hoped to accomplish by showcasing stories of disenfranchised youth. His book, Brown Angels, was a different sort of text, a book of poetry with a rare collection of photographs of African-American children from a bygone era. This book, became one of my favorites and the mentor text for several project-based learning experiences that I created. 


Rereading Myers' book, Brown Angels, reminded me of the sheer enjoyment felt by children when I read the poems in this collection.  To create a love for history, family life, and poetry in my years before administration, I designed a learning experience for primary age-children with this book as the central text. An antique steamer trunk filled with a collection of vintage clothing was the prop to engage children in a shared reading/writing experience. The project entailed listening to Myers' poems and examining the photographs that were enlarged with a poster maker machine; rereading a selected poem with guidance in a choral reading fashion while addressing fluency and tone of voice; the opening of a simulated photography studio where children would dress in vintage garb and be photographed to match the stance of the children in the photos; the creation of poems based on those in Walter Dean Myers' book, Brown Angels. The new poems and photographs were ultimately paired and showcased in a gallery-like setting for the school community. 

Although I do not have any student work samples, I decided to use Walter Dean Myers' poem, "Summer," as my mentor text for the virtual gallery of artistic expressions that I recently launched.

Summer

I like hot days, hot days
Sweat is what you got days
Bugs buzzin from cousin to cousin
Juices dripping
Running and ripping
Catch the one you love days

Birds peeping
Old men sleeping
Lazy days, daisies lay
Beaming and dreaming
Of hot days, hot days,
Sweat is what you got days.
                                - Walter Dean Myers
From Brown Angels: An Album of Pictures and Verse


Summer

I like glowing summer days-
Sun dancing on sand days,
Glistening sweat on tanned bodies days.
Watermelon dripping.
Iced drinks swishing.
Children chilling.
Sea sounds alluring.
Pleasures enduring.
I like sunshine moments days
Chasing away hazy, cloudy ways.
Summer Serenity!
                                                                                       - Carol Varsalona, 2014



Please peruse the array of Independence Day submissions for Poetry Friday that can be found at Heidi Mordhorst's blog site, my juicy little universe. Thank you to Heidi for hosting this week's Poetry Friday

If you are interested in hearing one of Walter Dean Myers' family stories you can go to 
 StoryCorps