The Academy of American Poets launched the first National Poetry Read-a-Thon in April 2006. Since then classrooms in every state and at every grade level in the country have been invited to continue the project—in any month of the year. The goal is to celebrate the reading of poems and writing about poems as well as to facilitate the development of student writing and comprehension skills.

Students choose poems to read and then write prose “responses” to the poems they read. A response will be 75-100 words and students can respond to one or two of the following elements of the poem:

  • images of the poem
  • sounds of the poem
  • subject(s) of the poem
  • emotional effect(s) of the poem
  • the poem’s meaning(s)
  • questions about the poem
  • questions the student would like to ask, if he/she could speak to the poet

The students keep a log of their reading. The log will include each poem’s title, author, and the date the student read the poem and presented his or her response to the teacher. The teacher will maintain a master log of all the poems read by the class.

Teachers submitted examples of their students’ responses to be considered for posting in the For Educators section of the Academy of American Poets’ award-winning website, in 2006. This example of student work provides models for students as well as an ongoing resource for teachers.

For a selection of poems to teach, see the Academy’s anthology How to Eat a Poem or view these other suggestions.

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.