April is National Poetry Month – a time set aside every year to celebrate the written word and raise awareness and appreciation of poetry across the United States. Established in 1996, National Poetry Month was inspired by the success of Black History Month and Women’s History Month, celebrated each year in February and March, respectively. In 1995 the Academy of American Poets assembled a group of publishers, booksellers, librarians, literary organizations, poets and teachers to discuss the necessity and usefulness of establishing a yearly, month-long celebration of poetry. Thanks to the efforts of the Academy, National Poetry Month was established in 1996 and has been growing in scope and popularity since then.

Whether you are a burgeoning poet, or simply a supporter of the arts, there are numerous ways to support and promote poetry this month. You can discuss and promote National Poetry Month on twitter using the hashtag #npm17. You can order a free National Poetry Month poster to display. A really fun way to get involved is to participate in the "Dear Poet" project - a multimedia education project that invites young people in grades five through twelve to write letters in response to poems written and read by some of the award-winning poets who serve on the Academy of American Poets Board of Chancellors. You can sign your class up (and watch awesome poets read their poems!) here. You can participate in "Poem in Your Pocket" day on April 27th, or you can even sign up to be a member of the Academy of American Poets and commit to writing one poem per day during National Poetry Month. One of my favorite authors, YA superstar Jason Reynolds, is taking the poem-a-day challenge - you can read his daily poems here. 

Author Jason Reynolds is taking the poem-a-day challenge. Will you?

(Jason Reynolds. Digital image. Reading Spaces: Jason Reynolds - Design*Sponge. Design*Sponge LLC, Feb. 2016. Web. Apr. 2017.)

If you are interested in making an impact in the lives of at-risk youth, you can support poetry for young adults in detention facilities by purchasing items from the Contra Costa County Juvenile Hall and Orin Allen Youth Rehabilitation Facility Amazon wishlist. Every year the Juvenile Hall and Orin Allen libraries hold a poetry contest and recital for the young adults at those facilities and all the prizes for the contest, along with books for the library collection and many other supplies for Juvenile Hall residents, come from charitable donations such as patrons purchasing items from the wishlist. If you want to support at-risk youth closer to home, Coffee Oasis publishes a literary magazine called "A Voice" that is a collection of poems, stories, drawings, and other art created by the homeless and at-risk youth they serve. You can view the most recent edition of "A Voice" online here, and if you would like to support this excellent, artistic endeavor donations can be made at any Coffee Oasis location (specify that you would like your donation to fund the "Zine project") or via their website by clicking on the "GIVE" button.

However you choose to support and promote poetry is wonderful; the propagation of poetry serves to illuminate and beautify our world. So get out there this month and spread the good word about the written and spoken word!

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