in february, i visited an i-lead charter school classroom in the city of reading to talk to students about my poetry project on the manufacturing history of berks county. this happened through a wednesday mentoring program where professionals from the community visit to work with students as a way to help expand their knowledge beyond normal curriculum brain-stretchings.
photography credits: marian wolbers
the students had some great questions about industries long ago, and they're so young that most of them never knew about or guessed about the kinds of products which were once made in the area, including candies and lots of chocolate but also many textiles and even bulletproof vests.
and they tested out reading the poems from the first volume within this project, too, as a way to practice the voices of those who helped to make our region's economic and cultural history what it was long ago, which filtered into what it is today, even if that's sometimes hard to see nowadays.
one of these students, darlin, even won a spanish and english translation poetry contest in the past, something he has a very good reason to be proud of within his curiosity with literature, i told him.
another student, maileysha, had a copy of 1999's perks of being a wallfower by stephen chbosky with her in a later class, which i visited where i taught identity-exploring poetry, and she excitedly told me about a poem inside this book. i had been meaning to read this book since high school because my best friend who moved to california adored it and recommended it. maileysha told me that i MUST read it. so i ordered it from within the county library system in the form of a CD so i could listen to it in my car while driving to and fro. i loved the simplicity and complexity of the main character (a kid named charlie) and his observations and speaking. the poem in it really hit home with deep kitchen reminder-filled emotion in understanding all of the teenagers in the book. if you have not read it, no matter what your age is, look for it. it's a good book to absorb.