Read Across SMSD April 2024- Discover the Power of Poetry

April: Discover the Power of Poetry
Shawnee Mission School District

This year, a group of Shawnee Mission School District students reflected on the idea of lifting up others and shared their creative thoughts through essays and poetry.

The Shawnee Mission School District is highlighting the creativity of several of these students in the month of April through the Read Across SMSD theme “Discover the Power of Poetry.”

The elementary book featured during this month is “How to Write a Poem” by Kwame Alexander and Deanna Nikaido. Jessica Hembree, Shawnee Mission Board of Education member, noted that Alexander says the purpose of the book is to show “how to use your words, how to lift your voices, and how to change the world one stanza at a time.”

Hembree invited three students to share their Citizenship poetry entries, written to change the world one stanza at a time.

Jacob Underwood, a Tomahawk Elementary student, shared a poem reflecting on various ways to lift someone’s spirits.

“When someone is down, you can lift their spirits by showing appreciation and inspiring them,” Underwood shared. “You can ask what is wrong or how is your day going? Or give a gift and carry something or hold a door open. And be kind and say please and thank you. They might be happy after you do some of those.”

Diya Thomas, a sixth-grader from Highlands, shared her poem “Stepping Stools.”

“Everything suddenly came to a halt, as we both realized we weren’t alone anymore,” Thomas expressed. “On that day, the black and white turned into a pool of color. For we lifted each other up high to the clouds. Possible due to our stepping stools, stepping stools of empathy.”

In another reflection on how to lift others up, Mia Clark from Indian Woods Middle School reflected on the impact of being positive and kind. “If someone is being pushed around, or another shoves them to the ground, I will lend a helping hand and lift them up off the dirt or sand.”

The Citizenship poetry entries were all recognized as a part of the Citizenship Writing Contest, organized by PTA and Shawnee Mission Area Council PTA. You can find out more information about the writing program by clicking here.  

April Reading and Learning Resources

Read Across SMSD is modeled after the national Read Across America program and is led in partnership with NEA-Shawnee Mission. Access to books for Shawnee Mission students is made possible through the Shawnee Mission Education Foundation

Here are the Read Across America March titles from the NEA book list:


“How to Write a Poem”

By Kwame Alexander and Deanna Nikaido

Click here to learn more.

Middle Grade


By Zetta Elliott and Lyn Miller-Lachmann

Click here to learn more.

Young Adult

“Abuela, Don’t Forget Me”

By Rex Ogle

Click here to learn more.

The links above provide activity ideas, discussion ideas, reflective writing questions, and related resources for more titles to try in each age group.

April: Discover the Power of Poetry