Improving Literacy Through Poetry: Student Spotlight on Danielle Kohn
February 24, 2020
Danielle Kohn ’21 is sharing her love of poetry in her new position as Westchester County’s Youth Poet Laureate.
On January 3, 2020, Westchester County Executive George Latimer and Executive Director of the Westchester County Youth Bureau Dr. DaMia Harris-Madden announced Kohn as Westchester’s first Youth Poet Laureate. A Youth Poet Laureate is a poet, ages 13 to 19, who has been recognized for their outstanding work in poetry “I reached out to the Westchester Youth Bureau with ideas of how to integrate poetry into Westchester schools and introduce children in Westchester to poetry, and then after connecting with them, and through conversations, the idea of a Youth Poet Laureate evolved,” explained Kohn. As part of her new position, Kohn hopes “to promote poetry and literacy to the youth of Westchester and to introduce kids to poetry who might not otherwise have access to it.”
A junior at SHS, Kohn has been writing poems for over ten years. “I’ve been writing poetry since second grade, and I was introduced to poetry in first grade. Poetry has been a really big part of my life for a really long time, and I hope to give other kids the opportunity to appreciate this as much as I do,” said Kohn. Some people feel intimidated by poetry because of its profundity and deep meanings, but Kohn hopes that she will be able to take that stigma away so that kids see poetry for everything it has to offer.
In her new role, Kohn is working on a program known as Poetry 180. Originally created by Billy Collins, former Poet Laureate of the United States, the program curates 180 poems for schools to read to students each day of the school year. Kohn’s intention is to institute the program into Westchester schools. “We also plan to create a shorter version of that just for National Poetry Month for elementary school kids because the Poetry 180 program was created with a high school audience in mind,” noted Kohn.
Kohn feels that poetry is generally underrated, especially in this day and age of technology. However, she believes that reading short poems is a good solution to combat people’s inability to remain attentive for long periods of time. “I personally feel like poetry is perfect for this generation, especially since we have such short attention spans, so a short poem is sort of the perfect way to sit down and read something,” she remarked. Indeed, studies have shown that reading poetry can improve literacy and concentration abilities.
The Poetry 180 program won’t solve the problems of short attention spans and illiteracy overnight, but it is a great first step. Hopefully, we will see the project come into fruition soon.