Guest Blogger

Open-Air Poetry – No Walls, Just Words

A picture taken from above of kids enjoying a poetry program

I stood in the middle of our Children’s Services department on an early April afternoon and read poetry to a group of kids and their grownups. They were spattered around on the floor under our reading tower and perched in the top.  Listening.

Let me be clear, this wasn’t so much a program as it was an actual poetry reading. I didn’t read original work but I did highlight the art of Shel Silverstein, Judith Viorst, Eugene Field, and Richard Blanco. Also, I read out of a few anthologies: National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry and Tour America. I, as a poet, focused on emotion, syntax, and musicality. I, as a library employee, focused on my audience being comfortable, relaxed, and at ease. Out in the open, sprawled out wherever they chose, I drew a crowd whether it was obvious or not.

A few middle-grade kids came after I had started reading then ducked out after a few poems realizing this wasn’t their style: TOTALLY OKAY! Another young girl wasn’t too sure if she wanted to sit and stay awhile, so she lingered behind me. She ended up staying the whole time, but never sitting down. What I’m saying is: I read poetry to kids at their comfort level. And it was glorious. The fluidity of coming and going or the luxury of hearing the poetry in any aisle was easy. Easy for everyone.  I’ve been calling it an Open-Air Program: no walls, just words.

After the reading, we all sat down with books littered around us and wrote our own poems. OR we transcribed poems we liked onto paper – all with the intention of hanging these pieces on our department’s POETRY WALL.

Poetry wall with favorite poems tacked to the wall

This was as successful as the reading itself. Families flipped through books, kids AND grownups talked about what they liked and why, a dad to a 4 year old and an infant wrote a fabulous poem about a Unicorn. I blame the success of this event on COMFORT level and quality of poetry. We, children and grownups, are hungry for poetry for many different reasons, but the foremost is — we are all human.


Photo of guest blogger stands with BatmanOur guest blogger today is Erica Anderson-Senter. Erica works in the Children Services department in Fort Wayne, Indiana for the Allen County Public Library system. She has her MFA in Poetry and her favorite color is sunshine.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at


  1. Carol Simon Levin

    We had a lot of fun playing with poetry at my library and at outreach last month as well. Pix and details are here:

  2. Dianna Burt

    Great post Erica! Poetry and you rock!

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