A Celebration of Bees


Barbara Juster Esbensen

"What I am trying to find with children and young people and what they and you, their parents and teachers, must constantly look for are new ways to make our language express familiar experiences."

"Perhaps we forget something about our English language, since it is so commonplace a thing to us who speak it from birth. But it is interesting to know that English has been described by linguists to be one of the richest in the world. The writer Joseph Conrad was Polish. He spoke French, then learned English as an officer on English merchant ships. And when he began to write his great books, he said he never for an instant hesitated about the language he would use for his novels. He chose English for its tremendous variety, its shades of meaning, its richness, and its color."

Children should be encouraged "to play with words, to enjoy words for their sound, their color, and even for the shape of a particular word on the page."

"An emphasis on strong verbs and lively, unexpected adjectives carries over into disciplines other than the language arts, of course. Social studies or science reports, for instance, will come to life if the student has had ongoing experience using language in effective ways."

"When people write creatively, they are actually seeing familiar objects or sensations or situations as though for the very first time."

"Writing poetry encourages children to be accurate, to say what they really mean, and to say it as economically as possible. No special language is necessary. No stylistic trimmings or tricks are necessary. What is necessary is to seek and find words that can capture the feelings and impressions we call experience, the all but inaudible music we sense in ourselves. To do this, we need not go down the June-moon-spittoon-baboon trail searching frantically for rhyming words. Poetry does not have to rhyme, or look a certain way on the page, or have lines that have a certain basic rhythm pattern."

"If any one word can stand for the essence of creating a climate, an atmosphere that allows the creative impulse to grow and flourish, I think it would be the word ACCEPTING. Every child needs to feel that you respect and accept what he or she is trying to do. This does not imply dishonest praise for something that is not as good as it can be. It means that you exhibit an underlying understanding and respect for the children's efforts, while trying to bring out of those children the most exciting ideas they are capable of having."

"It is not a crime to start a poem with THE. But as children become more and more aware of the thrilling possibilities of language, they will find more vigorous ways to begin their poems."

"Handle matters of spelling and punctuation in the most relaxed way possible. In the first bubbling out of creative juices, nobody wants to have their ideas red-penciled. Children can correct and polish later when they realize that their writing will be published and that clarity is needed to communicate the poem."

"You need to keep pressing for another, another, and yet another good word that means the same as whatever you are speaking about. As we've found again and again, children's vocabularies abound with words they know but seldom use. By the time they've been fluent speakers for a number of years, their self-expression becomes as commonplace and dull as ours. So, encourage them at an early age to quarry imaginative words and phrases. Everyone is excited when jewels of little-used speech are discovered and put on display for all to admire and use."

"Let your children choose a picture to write about. Then, insist that the child use short lines, rich imagery, and inventive language to give life to the picture. Your goal for each young poet is, always, lively writing - original writing that doesn't sound like anything any other person would think of. Don't settle for anything else. Your children can be encouraged to stretch their minds and to play with words for the pure joy of it!"

More information on the life and work of Barbara Juster Esbensen can be received by sending an email request to the following address:

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Barbara Juster Esbensen Memorial

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