“Fourteen percent of American adults can’t read,” Caroline Kennedy said. “It’s a slow-motion disaster.” She hopes her new poetry book will get kids excited about reading.
Mary Altaffer • Associated Press ,
Caroline Kennedy shares love of poetry in new children's book
- March 31, 2013 - 7:37 PM
NEW YORK – Beginning work a few years ago on her latest book, an anthology of poems for young people, Caroline Kennedy found herself looking through one of her mother’s scrapbooks. She burst into laughter, she says, as she came across a poem that her brother, John, as a youngster, had copied as a gift to their poetry-loving mom.
“Willie with a thirst for gore, Nailed his sister to the door,” went the poem, by an unknown author. “Mother said with humor quaint, ‘Careful, Willie, don’t scratch the paint!’ ”
The poem “brought back memories of our relationship,” Kennedy told a bookstore audience last week.
But for Kennedy, now 55 and a mother of three grown children, there’s a deeper meaning to that irreverent ditty. Poetry was a central part of her home life growing up. She and John regularly copied out and illustrated poems for their mother, Jackie, upon birthdays and Mother’s Days. Sometimes, they’d recite them, too. And at family gatherings, there were frequent challenges to recite Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s lengthy “Paul Revere’s Ride.” Only Uncle Ted, it seems, was able to recite it in its entirety.
Now, with her 10th book, “Poems to Learn By Heart,” Kennedy wants to share with young readers the love for the written word. It’s also an effort to promote literacy, a cause Kennedy has supported in a number of ways. “Kids need a way in,” she says, “and reading needs to be fun. Poetry can give them that — with the current emphasis on poetry slams and these other open mike events. That’s actually why I think poetry has a chance.”
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