In the small town of Scranton, Pennsylvania, on April 13, 1938, a boy named Lee Bennett Hopkins was born. As a child, he discovered the enchanting world of books and poetry, which provided solace during difficult times. This early love for verse would ignite a lifelong passion for poetry and its power to captivate young minds. Lee Bennett Hopkins went on to become a celebrated poet, anthologist, and educator, dedicating his life to fostering a love of poetry in children.
A Teacher and a Poet
Lee Bennett Hopkins started his career as a teacher. He had a special talent for connecting with his students, and he knew that poetry could help them express their feelings, thoughts, and dreams. He wanted to inspire children to fall in love with poetry, just as he had.
In addition to teaching, Lee began writing his own poems and putting together collections of poetry for children. His work was unique because he focused on selecting poems that would speak directly to children’s experiences and emotions.
Celebrating Children’s Poetry
Over the years, Lee Bennett Hopkins compiled and edited more than 100 anthologies of poetry for children. These collections featured a wide range of themes, from friendship and family to nature and the world around us. Some of his most popular anthologies include Days to Celebrate, Jumping Off Library Shelves, and World Make Way.
Lee also wrote his own poems, many of which were published in various children’s magazines and anthologies. His poems often captured the joys and challenges of childhood, using language that was both playful and meaningful.
Encouraging Young Poets
Lee was not only passionate about sharing poetry with children, but also about supporting and encouraging young poets. In 1993, he established the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, which is presented annually to an American poet or anthologist for the most outstanding new book of children’s poetry.
In addition, he established two other awards that are given every three years for outstanding works of poetry for children; the SCBWI Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award and the ILA Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award. These awards have helped recognize and promote talented poets and their work in the world of children’s literature.
Lee passed away on August 8, 2019, but his dedication to children’s poetry continues to inspire readers, writers, and educators. His love for poetry and his commitment to sharing it with young people have left a lasting impact on the world of children’s literature.
We can celebrate the life and work of Lee Bennett Hopkins by reading a poem, writing our own verses, or sharing a favorite collection with friends and family. His passion for poetry will live on through the countless children who have discovered the magic of words, thanks to his efforts.