There is the person who tells the story. This is the storyteller. And there is the person who listens to the story. This is the story friend. Kalli Dakos' My Story Friend shows the journey of a child looking for his story friend. Magination Press interviewed Ms. Dakos about creating this beautiful picture book. Magination Press: What inspired you to write My Story Friend? Kalli Dakos: I’ve worked with students for over thirty years and have written over 3,000 poems about life in our classrooms and our schools. In order to write these poems, I had to listen carefully to the students’ stories. I became a “listener” at a very deep level. For example, when I found a child “hiding in the bathroom,” I listened carefully to the story behind his decision to hide there and to the feelings that he expressed. Then I was able to write a poem that all students would understand. Children want someone to really listen to them. We are a very busy society and there are so many expectations put upon parents and teachers. But I believe that taking the time to encourage our children to share their stories and their feelings is a form of the greatest love. MP: Why is it important for people to be able to tell their stories? KD: To be heard, to be understood at a deep level, is something we all crave. It helps us to feel that we are not alone in this world and that our Story Friend really has our best interests at heart. The child in my book went looking for this experience and found it with the old woman who had both the time and the heart to really listen to his story and the feelings behind them. He was amazed at how much the simple act of telling his story helped him to understand his problems at a deep level where the solutions could also be found. He learned the value of “listening” at this level and became a Story Friend himself. MP: Why is it important for people to listen to other people’s stories? KD: Storytelling was used long ago before psychology and psychiatry as healing medicine, and the storyteller was often the most honored member of the tribe or society. It is this healing quality of storytelling that makes it so important through all of time. MP: The boy in the book struggles to find someone to listen to his story. He doesn’t feel he can tell his family, and two other grown-ups tell him they don’t want to listen to his story. What does it take to be a Story Friend? How can someone become a Story Friend if they are not one? KD: It takes a great deal of practice to listen deeply to a child’s story. Adults want to jump in and either tell the child what to do or move on to something else that they think is more important. TheirRead More
About Kalli DakosKalli Dakos is a children’s poet and educator. She visits schools across the United States and Canada to encourage children and teachers to write about their own lives. She has written many collections of school poems that include six ILA/CBC Children's Choice Selections, such as If You’re Not Here, Please Raise Your Hand. She lives in Ottawa, Canada, and has an office in Ogdensburg, NY.
In honor of National Poetry Month, we've interviewed Kalli Dakos, author of a new collection of poems, They Only See the Outside. We ask her about the process of making this book and how poetry can help children better understand their feelings and feel less alone. Magination Press: What inspired you to create this poetry collection, They Only See the Outside? Kalli Dakos: I was asked to do a collection of poems that deal with emotional issues and I thought it was a wonderful idea. I’ve been sharing poetry with children for many years now and I know that poems can help them deal with problems at so many levels – both reading and writing poems. Reading poems helps children to feel that they are not alone with their difficulties and writing poems helps to give a voice to their problems and to share their own stories. Reading poems helps children to feel that they are not alone with their difficulties and writing poems helps to give a voice to their problems and to share their own stories. MP: You’ve written many books of poetry. What makes this one different? KD: This is my first book that has both previously published poems and new poems as well. I was able to share some of my favorite poems from other books and to add poems on brand new topics. MP: Are there any poets who have inspired or mentored you? KD: There are many poets who have inspired me over the years – from William Wordsworth to Shel Silverstein to the wonderful children’s poets today who are my friends. MP: The poems in They Only See the Outside can raise many different emotions and reactions from page to page as you cover incredibly different topics, from serious to ordinary to amusing. Can you explain why this approach benefits readers? KD: Poems help children to develop empathy and compassion for the struggles that their peers face, and covering all different topics helps this exposure. And then there are the poems that strike a chord with individual children because they have experienced the feelings in the poem. I love to include longer free verse poems that can handle topics that require more text, and it is always important to include humorous poetry that gives children a break from the deeper issues, but also helps them to realize they are not alone with embarrassing situations. MP: In this collection of poems, you explore all kinds of feelings a kid might have in diverse life experiences. In your picture book Why Am I Blue?, you explore feelings, too. How is writing a book of poetry different from crafting a picture book? KD: I feel that most of my writing is poetry even if it is in a picture book. I always begin a picture book as a poet, with either free verse or rhyme. In the original versions, the stories are written as poetry, and then changed to picture book format, as in Why Am I Blue?Read More