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

Hip Hop Speaks

I decided to write a review of this book for January because I think it’s a great way to return from the holidays and jump into something creative and fun. Sure, National Poetry Month is in April, but most US school systems probably include poetic/figurative language much earlier than that. In our state, we are preparing for the dreaded testing in April, so poetry gets pushed waaayyy back on the burner.

This book includes a CD with some poems read by the original poets, including LANGSTON HUGHES and GWENDOLYN BROOKS! Excuse me for screaming, but how wonderful for 21st century students to actually hear great American poets read from their own work. Not all of the poems in the book are on the CD, which leads to my teaching idea: a classroom poetry slam!

Teachers can allow students to listen to as many poems as they’d like on the CD as a model for “performing” poems. I’d suggest allowing students to either read another poet’s work and interpret it OR write and perform their own original poem. While preparing for the poetry slam, teachers should expose students to lots and lots of poetry…this book is a great jumpstart, but inudate the class with lots of poetry books. Make the slam fun with snacks and allow the students to “dress up” in cool hipster outfits if they choose…tams and sunglasses anyone??

Hip Hop Speaks to Children would also make a wonderful supplement and/or jumpstart to Black History Month. The introduction, “Stories in Rhythm,” by the awesome Nikki Giovanni is a lesson in itself.

About the only problem I have with this lively picture book is its subtitle, “A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat.” Doesn’t all poetry have “a beat”? But that’s a discussion for adults who write curriculum and define genres perhaps. Children usually find the beat to all types of poems and they’ll definitely find the rhythm in these.

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