Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman Wants To Rally Kids To Find Their Voice With New Empowering Children's Book
While Amanda Gorman's inaugural poem, The Hill We Climb, stirred the nation, she found a special fan base in kids. The 23-year-old poet's latest work, the spirited picture book Change Sings, addresses them directly, cementing her as a role model for young people. "I wrote this book because I believe every child can make a difference and that they're the future leaders," says Gorman. "I wanted to create something in which kids could see themselves represented as change makers in history rather than just observers." Gorman talked to Parents about how poetry and reading have shaped her.
When did your passion for writing poetry begin?
It goes back to elementary school. While other students were on the jungle gym, I was writing in my journal on a park bench or trying to write my own dictionary. I'd hoard dozens of books in my second-grade cubby and try to read two at a time, side by side.
What were your favorite books?
In third grade, my teacher Shelly Fredman read us Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury. It was the first time I'd heard a metaphor used in such a way and my mind was blown. In eighth grade, I picked up Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye because I'd never seen a book with a dark-skinned, nappy-haired girl on the cover. I was enthralled, not just by Morrison's craftsmanship but also by the content of her stories—her characters, which I've always called fourth-dimensional. I'd been reading books without Black heroines, which nearly stripped me of the ability to write in my own voice. Reading Morrison was almost like reteaching myself how to write unapologetically in a Black and feminist aesthetic that was my own.
You've said that your speech delay helped your writing skills. Can you share how?
I had difficulty making a shhh sound and pronouncing the letter r. I would do tongue exercises for strength and record myself pronouncing sounds every day after school. Reciting poems and raps helped me because it turned something that was arduous into a fun activity. I think of my speech impediment not as a weakness or a disability but as one of my greatest strengths.
This article originally appeared in Parents magazine's October 2021 issue as "Book Crush: Amanda Gorman Helps Kids Find Their Voice" Want more from the magazine? Sign up for a monthly print subscription here.