Teach This Poem is a weekly series featuring a poem from our online poetry collection, accompanied by interdisciplinary resources and activities designed to help K-12 teachers quickly and easily bring poetry into the classroom.

Featured Poem

George Peabody Library

 George Peabody Library
Highsmith, Carol M. George Peabody Library, formerly the Library of the Peabody Institute of the City of Baltimore, is part of the Johns Hopkins Sheridan Libraries. Baltimore, Maryland. 2012. September. Photograph.


Classroom Activities

The following activities and questions are designed to help your students use their noticing skills to move through the poem and develop their thinking about its meaning with confidence, using what they’ve noticed as evidence for their interpretations. Read more about the framework upon which these activities are based.

  1. Warm-up (whip around): Go quickly around the room and share how often you visit the library.  
  2. Before Reading the Poem (in small groups): Look closely at the image of the George Peabody Library in Baltimore, Maryland. With your group, make a list of adjectives to describe this library, then share these lists with the whole class. 
  3. Reading the Poem: Read the poem by Albert Ríos silently. Notice the words and phrases that jump out at you, then think about what you noticed as you annotate the poem. 
  4. Listening to the Poem (enlist a volunteer to read the poem aloud): Listen as the poem is read aloud twice, first by a student and then by the poet in this video. Write down any additional words and phrases that jump out at you. Call back the lines that you like by saying these lines aloud with your group.  
  5. Small-group Discussion: Share what you noticed in the poem with your partner and another pair of students. Based on the details you just shared, what are some images that stand out to you? Why?  
  6. Whole-class Discussion: Think back to the list you created at the beginning of class. How does your list compare with the line “The library is dangerous”? Do you agree or disagree with this line? Why?  
  7. Extension for Grades 7-8: September 22 through 28 is Banned Books Week, a national campaign exploring censorship and the freedom to read. Work with your teacher to select a Banned Book (or part of one) to read over  the course of the week. At the end of the week, write a Dear Banned Author letter.  
  8.  Extension for Grades 9-12: To celebrate Banned Books Week, read the article “Poetry’s Place in the History of Banned Books” and the related anthology of previously banned poems. At the end of the week, write an op-ed for your local or student newspaper explaining why a poem you read should not be banned.

More Context for Teachers: “Don’t Go Into the Library” was featured in the 2018 Dear Poet project, and Alberto Ríos exchanged letters with several students about this poem. In one, he writes, “When you step into a library, you simply feel something.... To be surrounded by the whole history and imagination of human kind, moving in every direction possible, all at the choosing of my fingertip—that is not simply sacred, but amazing.  It is a good fire in the brain.” Read more.