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Inside Practically Paradise

Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat

Wow! Want a reaction from faculty members? Bring in the new Nikki Giovanni title Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat and see what happens. 

I hadn’t finished listening to the entire CD that accompanies this beautifully illustrated poetry book on my way to school, so I plopped in the CD and cranked up the surround sound in my library while speakers prepared and teachers gathered. Just as the principal entered to begin our faculty meeting, we were able to listen to Martin Luther King, Jr’s speech from "I have a dream." It set the tone for our entire day. 

Throughout the morning, I replayed the entire CD while students came and went. I made sure to play and replay Eloise Greenfield’s poem Books. Visit SourceBooks website to see this page in larger format. The students can recite parts with me now

"I’ve got books on the bunk bed
books on the chair
books on the couch
And every old where
But   I   want     more       books….."

During the meeting, I carried the book from table to table and explained to teachers that I was gathering their opinions on the book. As each teacher traveled through the library (we have the only working printer in school), I pointed out unique aspects of different poems and challenged them to think of students who would benefit from the beat. 

What was their response? Absolutely 100% enrapturement. (Is that a word?) Every teacher of English and reading wrote down the information to order their own copy for their classroom collection. Eighth grade teachers agreed to work with me on a Poetry Slam this spring (with a mini jam this fall) using the surround sound and microphone in the library. Many teachers of math, science, and social studies wanted their own copy.

The art teachers were impressed with the illustrations and couldn’t wait to create more while listening to the CD.

The music teacher, AH!, the music teacher was the first to ask to borrow the book. She was doing an introduction to different types of music and had absolutely nothing on Hip Hop. She returned the book reluctantly with a promise that she could borrow it again until her copy arrived. She was so excited to hear Sugar Hill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight. She had already talked about it with the students, but couldn’t locate a copy for her curriculum. Along came Hip Hop Speaks to Children with everything she needed to discuss rhythm, beats, poetry, songs, and music. She also raved about the artwork.

Our consensus is Hip Hop Speaks to Children is the most essential poetry purchase to make this year. 

The poetry is enough.
The illustrations are enough.
The CD is enough.
Together, this book is a treasure of which you cannot get enough.

We shall accomplish much this year. Children will be encouraged to put their words to poetry and beats. Teachers will be encouraged to allow the artists to speak to children.

I was hesitating about writing about this title since Amy Bowlan wrote so eloquently about it this past week, but then I decided you deserve to keep having this title brought to your attention until you get out there and order several copies. 

I’m not another "joiner" in the blog world who writes about the same titles others do for the same reasons. Sometimes I work with a book for a month before gathering enough responses from librarians, students, and Nathaniel Talking (Writers and Readers)teachers to form a definitive approach. I had been studying this title and it is vital for you to have, so I decided to share what we have decided at my middle school. Thankfully the introduction of Hip Hop Speaks to Children helped me evaluate my poetry collection. None of my middle school teachers knew about Nathaniel Talking by Eloise Greenfield either. I can tell I have some work cut out for me this year. You cannot have a collection without Nikki Giovanni, Arnold Adoff, and Eloise Greenfield’s voices. I’ve got to get out the orders.

Becky’s Book Reviews had her blog post and listed Books as one of her favorite poems. This reassured me that we are on the same track to somewhere exciting. The excitement keeps building over this title and Hip Hop Speaks to Children is going to steam through your school. Order multiple copies.   


  1. Amy Bowllan says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Diane! I too listened and moved to the beat on my drive in to work. Fun, fun, fun!