Get Kids Excited About Poetry with Book Spine & Blackout Poetry

Book Spine & Blackout Poetry

What’s your favorite animal?
Lucy hares and itchy bears?
The runaway bunny?
Edward the emu?
Little polar bear and the husky pup?
Beware! These Animals are Poison!

If you’ve ever gazed at a bookshelf and seen sentences, then the Forbes Library’s Book Spine Poetry Contest is for you! Book spine poetry, a form of “writing” that involves stacking books so that the titles on their spines create a poem, is an art form accessible to readers of all ages and sizes. In order to participate, families need only to snap a photo of their poem as pictured here and upload it to the library’s Facebook page. While there’s no rush to write (or stack!), the contest ends on April 30th – so be sure to start soon! Prizes will be awarded to the best poem for adults, best poem for teens, and a handful of other categories as well.

Though being limited to only the possibilities granted by book spines might feel restrictive at first, book spine poetry actually offers lots of space for creativity and original ideas. The huge number of books at Forbes (or in any local library) offer thousands and thousands of titles to turn into lines in a poem. Families can experiment with different styles of poetry, too – perhaps a haiku, end rhyme, or alliterative verse might be possible to create using some of your favorite titles.

For inspiration, take some advice from Association for Library Service to Children – start your poem without an idea, and collect titles as you go. Keep in your head, write down, or pull from the shelf the titles that interest you initially, whether or not they’re related. Once you’ve gathered a handful, you may find that some fit together naturally! If you’ve got a hole to fill, check out the library’s catalog (or get help from a librarian) to find something with a title that fits – it’s okay to search for a specific word or phrase!

Another tool for creating poetry from collections of others’ words is blackout poetry, where writers select phrases from a page of text and create a poem out of them by blacking out the rest of the page. Best if done using a tattered and torn copy of a book or a photocopy of a page, blackout poetry allows kids practice in searching for meaningful phrases within a larger amount of text – just like book spine poetry! Using a newspaper or magazine for blackout poems can help to amp up the artistic potential of the activity. Differences in font, text size, and alignment can help poets to create a piece that not only sounds wonderful, but is aesthetically pleasing, too!

While young writers may need support while working on a book spine or blackout poem, either activity supports skills in writing and reading for students of all ages. Poets of all ages will get to practice poetry without the pressure of coming up with their own words, and the use of others’ words can help to inspire new thoughts and ideas where writers may otherwise come up blank. There’s also lots of potential for learning new vocabulary words, or even discovering a new favorite book!

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