Mindfulness, according to Jon Kabat-Zinn, “means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Much easier said than done. Author/illustrator Bryan Collier once asked an audience if they had caught the color of the day that morning when they left the house. In other words, were they being mindful.
Winter has a reputation for being drab and gray. Sometimes a pristine blanket of white brightens the landscape, but too quickly it becomes trampled and dirty. Earlier this week, while driving to work (the one time of day I remember to be mindful), I was treated to a glorious pink sky. Joyce Sidman’s award-winning Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors immediately came to mind. She writes
“In the WINTER dawn
over pastel hills.”
Isn’t that lovely? Pamela Zagarenski’s Caldecott-Honor winning illustrations perfectly complement Sidman’s beautifully crafted images.
Sidman’s mindfulness, her keen observation, is evident in every poem. Colors are personified as they change from season to season. Sidman’s imagery seems effortless, yet creates a sense of wonder that makes readers want to rush outside and drink in the beauty that surrounds them.
Teachers across the country have many questions about the place of poetry as they implement the CCSS. Can they even still teach poetry? Of course they can! Reading Literature Standard 4 states that students will “Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning and tone.” This begs to be addressed through poetry. Joyce Sidman’s work is a perfect place to start. Not only can students examine her figurative language and word choice, they can follow her example of mindfulness. Teaching students to view the world with awareness so they can gather their own ideas, seeds of writing to come, is just as critical as any skill listed in the standards.
Joyce Sidman’s work deserves a place in all classrooms. Indeed, the National Council of Teachers of English just named her the 2013 winner of the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Read more about Red Sings from the Treetops and Sidman’s other books here. Congratulations, Joyce, and thank you for creating poems that remind us to always pay close attention to the world around us.