March 10, 2016

Steal this idea: Read and share a poem on the poet-tree

National Poetry Month presents a unique challenge for youth librarians everywhere. How do you share a love for words, poetry, and expression with children and teens who may think of poetry as boring?

I found the perfect combination of high involvement and low stress, mess, and preparation in presenting an annual participatory poet-tree. It's part display and part passive program. Having a library poet-tree appeals to many ages, and it's aesthetically pleasing, as well.

The idea of the poet-tree is to create a space where patrons of all ages can celebrate poetry by writing and sharing it. Encourage members to write original poems or copy them from your library's poetry collection onto index cards or die-cut leaves. As people walk by, they can add to the poetry or simply read the poems that others have shared.

Download the PDF Make a poet-tree at your library!

The tree can be a small potted tree, a fake tree that you buy, or a makeshift tree you cobble together. Feel free to use your library's Christmas tree or a shrubbery of some sort. The tree needs to be able to stand alone and provide branches on which to hang things.

The Tree: My first poet-tree was created using large branches that had fallen off a real tree. A motivated staff member made the effort to spray paint bright green to give them some color. I used rocks and some cat litter to "pot" the branches and hold them in place. A large pot, the spray paint, and the cat litter were donated by co-workers. The rocks and branches were found outside. After a few years, my library did end up purchasing a more durable tree, but my first tree has a special place in my memory.

The Leaves: Again, the leaves on your tree can be made of anything that works for you. I used colored index cards. The cards have plenty of space for a short poem and are durable. Place a container of clothespins (you can buy these at any craft store) on the table, along with pens or markers.

The Sign: Place a sign near the tree so that patrons know that you want them to participate. I made a free ready-to-go sign for you using LibraryAware!

To get the process started, create a few of your own leaves and hang them on the tree. Write just a few simple, fun poems. Having a few leaves ready invites others to participate in the project.

The poet-tree encourages participation from a wide range of age levels and interest levels. The poems were about a variety of subjects. Some of them rhymed and some didn't. One of the best ways to use the poet-tree is to count the number of poems people add to the tree. If your library keeps statistics, find a place to retain the numbers so that the success of your display is tangible and visible.

In short, having a poet-tree can encourage participation, increase circulation numbers of the poetry collection, create material for participation in library programs, and stimulate conversations between staff members and library patrons. It's a great way to celebrate National Poetry Month!

Lindsey Dunn is an Editor/Bibliographer at NoveList. She's a kidlit expert and creates resources for all the librarians out there grappling with keeping up with what books kids are reading. Want to hear more from her? Sign up for Lindsey's Book Squad email updates.

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Denise Kolber
March 18, 2016

I love this idea and I’m planning on using it in our library.
One question:  how did you keep the tree branch upright and fairly stable?

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Lindsey Dunn
March 18, 2016

Hi Denise, I put the tree branch in a pot and then found some large rocks and put them around the branch. After that, while one person holds the tree in the position you want it, fill in the rest of pot with sand or kitty litter. We used cat litter because it was cheaper. Some other libraries actually used a pre-potted tree, too. But cat litter worked great. Enjoy making your tree!

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Denise Kolber
March 22, 2016

Thanks Lindsey.  Actually I re-read the original post and the information is there, but thanks for the detailed info.  A staffer here at the library mentioned using plaster of paris for stability.  I’m considering.


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