How do you get your child into reading? According to New York Times bestselling author, Kwame Alexander, you introduce them to poetry.

“The power of poetry is that you can take these emotionally heavy moments in our lives, and you can distill them into these palatable, these digestible words and lines and phrases that allow us to be able to deal and cope with the world,” he said in an interview with NPR’s Rachel Martin. “I think it’s one of the reasons why young people love reading novels in verse. It’s because, on a very concrete level, it’s not that many words so it’s not that intimidating to me. There’s so much white space.”

Alexander, who has written 24 books, uses poetry to inspire and empower young people through his PAGE TO STAGE writing and publishing program. His book, The Crossover, received the 2015 John Newberry Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American literature for Children and the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor.

Catch Alexander here in Baltimore during the 5th African American Children’s Book Fair at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum on May 6th. He recently answered a few questions for the museum and they kindly shared his responses with us.

interview with kwame alexander

What books inspired you to become a writer?
My father is a writer, so all the books he has written definitely. Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, The Greatest– Muhammad Ali’s biography, all the poetry of Nikki Giovanni and Langston Hughes.

Which children’s book characters best describe me?
That’s a really good question… I would say some combination of John Steptoe’s book Stevie, Peter in Ezra Jack Keats The Snowy Day, Everett Anderson is probably the closest in Lucille Clifton’s series. Because they were cool inquisitive kids who were just embracing life.

What advice do you have for kids that want to fit more reading into their lives but don’t know how?
Give them poetry; poetry that is accessible, cool and fun. Get them excited about reading and writing by giving them a poem that they can get excited about.

What do you hope kids take away from your books?
I hope that they are entertained and engaged in the story. I hope that they are inspired to go and pick up another one of my book and check it out!

about the 5th african american children’s book fair

Join the Reginald F. Lewis Museum on May 6th for a fun-filled day focused on kids’ literature about African Americans and people of other ethnicities. Doors will open at 10:00am and from 11:00am to 4:00pm you can enjoy author readings, illustration workshops, live performances, and art activities. Callaloo Puppets and Maria Broom delight with entertainment. Purchase hard-to-find titles in the Book Village. Readers include Newbery Medalist Kwame Alexander and a surprise celebrity Hollywood actor for a special reading. The festival is sponsored by BGE. Special thanks to Enoch Pratt Free Library, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, and Mocha Moms. MORE INFORMATION