Children's Literature and Literacy

Glenna Sloan

Glenna Sloan

[The ABC's of Literacy | MAGIC | The Catskill Mountains, New York State |
Casualty | The Sea | Thought | Special | On Safari |
IMPALA | Shacktown | The Wiley Leopard | Their Majesties |
SAFARI SOUNDS | Those giraffes! | Tourists | We wonder ]

Poetry Power

The ABC's of Literacy


This is the way to literacy:
Read to the toddler,
Read to girl and boy;
Read for fun,
Read for joy.
Read words that dance,
Read words that sing,
Read works that tease,
Read words that ring.


Read and read and read again:
Read the best,
Read what's fine;
Read their favorites
One more time.


Teach a love of language, please,
Teach its wonders and mysteries;
Teach that reading can be fun,
Teach that reading can be done.
Teach so children
Feel the need
To learn themselves
How to read.


This is the way to literacy:
Listening to language
Set out in rows,
Repeating language
That soars and flows;
Skipping to language,
Clapping to its time,
Laughing in wonder
At an old, silly rhyme.
Setting out language
Letter by letter;
Writing like a poet,
Trying, getting better.

Learning the wonders of ABC:
That is the way to literacy.

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Some people say
There's no such thing
As magic.
What magicians do:
Pulling rabbits from hats,
Cutting someone in two;
Those are just tricks,
Not magic.
It's true.
But there is such a thing
As magic.
I'll prove it to you.

The alphabet is magic.
Don't you see?
With just 26 letters,
A to Z,
You have all you need
To write a poem,
Or a song to sing,
To make up a tale,
Or write out a plan
For anything,

There's magic in writing,
You'll have to agree,
For words written down
Are there to stay;
You can save your thoughts
For another day.
You can pen a letter
To send
To an absent friend;
You can answer the email
Meant just for you.

And learning to read:
There's magic in that.
At first, written words
Are just marks on the page;
Then, after you try,
Like magic, one day,
You suddenly know
That those marks on the page
Stand for the words
That you hear and say.

If you know how to read
To follow instructions,
You can cook, or build
Almost any construction.

From books you can learn
About faraway places;
Books make magic;
No doubt about it.
Books can take you on trips
Down the Yellow Brick Road,
They can arrange visits
With Frog and Toad;
Books let you share a song
With funny old Pooh,
Or go adventuring
With Bartholomew.

No such thing as magic?
That's simply not true.
Just learn reading and writing;
That's all you need do,
And those 26 letters,
A to Z,
Will cast their spell
And make magic
For you.

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The Catskill Mountains, New York State

This is Rip's country;
He lends it his fame.
Yet it has its own tall tales,
Tales of change and loss,
Of fallen mountain houses,
Of dreams washed out
By rough mountain streams.

Science can tell you why
There is a wreath of light
Around the mountain tops
On certain sunny days.
The glow a trick of sun's rays seen
Through thin air, they say.
I wonder. Don't mountains
Above all things
Deserve to wear halos?

It has rained a record
This summer;
The trees on our hill,
Oaks, maples, elms,
Wear more green than they need
To cover themselves.
We strain to see
The peaks through breaks
In this extravagance
Of leaves.

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The parkway I drive along to work
Swings past a pond of sorts.
Half-hidden by trees
It looks at speeding glance almost rural;
But these are suburban waters
Just feet away from cramped developments
Of townhouses;
A narrow verge of grass separates pond and trees
From four lanes of relentless traffic.

A flock of Canada Geese
Has colonized the pond.
Always near it,
In pairs they stroll along,
Pecking at the grassy verge,
Perilously close, too often,
To spinning wheels and tires.
You want to stop and shout a warning
To these aloof, stately creatures,
Shoo them back beyond the trees.
In the spring couples appear
With their young;
These have learned to swim, to fly;
Now it's time to learn
The pedestrian skill of roadside walking.

One rainy night at dusk, headed home, squinting,
Driving slow, I passed the pond.
Near the highway's center barricade
Lay the body of one of the great birds.
Nothing moved but dark feathers
Rising and falling
In the wind of passing cars.
Keeping vigil, on the verge opposite,
One who had to be its mate
Crouched, head hidden under a dark curve of wing,

They say these geese mate for life.

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The Sea

Cape Cod

The Sea is very old and deep,
Dark with secrets she will keep;
When divers try to find her out,
She has her ways their search to flout:
She and her friends, the Wind and Rain,
May collaborate on a hurricane.
Then waves try leaping to meet the Rain,
But powerful wind tosses them down again;
The Sea hides under the Wind-tossed foam
With a roar
And nervous divers stay safe on shore.

At the little house
On old Cape Cod,
We do special things
That may seem odd.

We sit in the sun,
Just sit, and see
The clouds going by,
Or admire a tree.

We make collections
Of cones and stones,
Get quite excited
By a black-fish bone.

We drive to the shore,
Checking to see
If the ocean's where
It's supposed to be.

San Juan

High above the shore
Our building rises,
Oversees the first light of the
Caribbean morning.
Two pigeons visit our balcony
Stepping gingerly
Eyeing me furtively.
The greys and browns of their feathers
Are touched here and there with soft pink and rose,
Like the new day.

Leaving Isla Verde Beach

I sit high
In the tall building,
Gazing, entering
The picture below
Into my inner inventory.
There is the vast curve of shoreline,
Rimmed with gold,
Bordered beyond with a green grace of palms.
In this awesome arc is
The perfection of a brush stroke
By a master painter or
The swoop of strings playing Brahms.
Filling the curve is the sea,
Its color not green, nor blue,
But somewhere between,
Astonishing to see,
Like the eyes of Siamese cats.
Fringes of white foam
Trim the surf,
And over all, the sky
I have caught the shapely panorama
In my mind,
Knowing well that the memory of it,
Like an old movie,
Will lack the colors of reality.

Lost Treasure

The sea gave me a sand dollar,
Rolled it gently to my foot.
My fingers felt around its perfect edge,
Traced the blossom stamped at center.
I watched as sea-damp grey
Dried to white,
Then saved the dollar in my bag.
It lay bone-white and brittle.
A little later, sad,
I found my dollar
Changed into bits
Small and smaller.
Kneeling before the sea
I begged another treasure.
The sea thundered as it rolled:
For a squanderer
No second dollar.

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I come from
A long line of
Top-heavy women,
Aunts on both sides,
Both grandmothers.
Heavy beasts
Weigh you down,
Carve grooves
In your shoulders,
Never lose weight
When you do.
Yet I dare not
These burdens.
They could strike back
In spite,
Get sick on you.
In imagination
I recall the overburdened
Overbearing aunts
And tell myself that
There are worse things
They could have passed along.

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At the teachers' conference
She let us know
That she was no ordinary mortal.
"I'm a poet," she declared,
By saying so, setting herself apart;
Less so named, we gazed in awe,
Imagining her sleepless
At her open window,
Or pacing on a windswept beach,
Or gazing at birch blazing in the grate
While calling up
Miraculous metaphors.

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On Safari

The forest is still
In the morning air
No wind, no breeze,
The day waiting.
Only the birds are awake,
Filling the still air with their sounds:
Now a chorus of cheeps,
Now a trio of sharp cries
Now a trill or two
Now a lilting melody.
The only other sounds:
Inane chatter and giggles
From the tourists
On the Jeep


A herd of impala, warm brown,
Bounds across the trail ahead.
The very picture of youthful zest.


Clusters of shacks
Fill acres of the cityscape
Cling to the Mountain's side.
Tattered, torn,
Splintered, worn,
Like those within.

The Wiley Leopard

The wiley leopard eludes us.
Rangers, Trackers, Tourists
Scan each tree,
Scour the sand for his footprints.
Not here? Not over there?
Where then?
Not to be seen.

Their Majesties

We prey upon
A family of lions napping
Under the low branches of a tree.
Sensing us, they rouse and stare,
Lids flickering over amber eyes.
Long-suffering expressions
Appear on every camera.
Tired of tourists.


A guttural gargle
From the turtle dove,
The cicada's
High singing.
Strange voices'
Doleful tonguing
Cracked cackles,
Pitchpipe peeps,
Shrill trills.

Those giraffes!

Elegant, regal
Regarding the tourists with
Just a touch of disdain.
Not unlike runway models
Strolling slow, stepping steady
With easy grace
Astonishing beings
Set apart.


They clump along,
Burdened by bags
Stuffed to capacity.
They are tourists
Faces tense and tired.
They worry:
Will I make the flight?
What have I mislaid or lost?
Did I pack all I need?
They wonder:
Is this a trip or test?

We wonder:

Who dressed the Zebra?
Haute couture that
Smart striped suit,
Short black boots
Over leggings.
The latest fashion.

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