Surround children with books, says Kwame Alexander

Guest Blogger  //  Nov 28, 2016

Surround children with books, says Kwame Alexander

We recently had a conversation with Kwame Alexander—poet, educator, and New York Times bestselling author—on his new project, Page-to-Stage Writing Workshop, which encourages students to write their own journeys. We especially love what he has to say about surrounding children with books. Enjoy!


Kwame Alexander’s Page-to-Stage Writing Workshop is a great professional book for K–12 educators with print and digital lesson resources to harness students’ creativity and inspire confident writers and public speakers. Through this book, what do you hope students ultimately walk away with?

Kwame Alexander: Above all, I want to help students write their own journeys and find their own voices. Poetry, in particular, draws us into ourselves as it simultaneously lets us give back to the world a fresh understanding, a new vision, a revision of one moment. And I hope that as students use written language to discover who they are and who they want to become, they will feel free to play with language—to be as fluid with written language as they are naturally with the spoken word.  I also hope that they will discover new confidence as readers and writers as they see their writing in a beautiful published book and, what’s more, present their writing to an audience beyond their classroom teacher. The thrill of public authorship through publication—and then presentation—engages all student writers, especially those who may not yet have found their way into reading and writing.

What are your top tips for helping students put their ideas on paper?

KA: The best way to have a good idea, is to have lots of ideas—and the best way to find lots of ideas is to use a range of strategies—what I call, “creative jumpstarts!” Here are four:

Pull a poem from your pocket—read it, recite, it play it, show it, let your students perform it. Share a poem that will resonate with your audience, taking verse from the page to the stage. Always keep a poem in your pocket; kids learn from listening to and reading other writers.

Invite free writing—about whatever your students want—for 10 to 20 minutes, just enough to get their fingers dancing on the page. They can write a journal entry, a poem, a response to something they heard or read—the possibilities are without limit. The aim is to prompt writing!

Play music—music of all kinds helps students loosen up and helps the writing flow; instrumental jazz, in my experience, is uniquely potent. Not only does the music empower critical and creative thinking, high-speed intellectual engagement with the ideas of others, self-actualization, and confidence, but also, if you chose the right song, it creates feelings of well-being and even, euphoria.

Do a fun, interactive read-aloud—with your younger students (works for older students, too!) or share a personal story of your own. Both engage students and prompt them to think of their own ideas.

What are some ways teachers and parents can expand their student’s imagination and knowledge of the world?

KA: We must surround our children with books and invite them to read, read, read. Every book we read, like every person we meet, has the potential to change our lives. A world of possible awaits in the pages of a book.



Kwame Alexander’s Page-to-Stage Writing Workshop: Awakening the Writer, Publisher, and Presenter in Every Student is available for purchase through Scholastic Professional: