Janet Wong is the author of 21 books published by traditional publishers (S&S, HMHarcourt, etc.) and is the co-founder of Pomelo Books, publisher of The Poetry Friday Anthology and Poetry Friday Power Book series, adopted in thousands of schools nationwide. Her current work involves teacher education on how to use Poetry + Movement to help kids “get the wiggles out.” Her anthology (with Sylvia Vardell), HOP TO IT: Poems to Get You Moving (January 2021), contains 100 poems that incorporate stretching, dancing, desk-ercise—and “2020 topics” such as staying connected virtually and standing up for what you believe in. Janet also focuses on “Poetry Across the Curriculum” to support STEM, social studies, arts, and kindness/anti-bullying instruction.
Janet jumped into the new world of virtual education with several programs for schools and districts recently—both extended programs and short offerings that require no teacher preparation in advance. Options include Zoom assemblies, Q&A sessions, workshops for teachers and parents, and an extended poet-in-residence program where Janet gives written feedback on student writing (via email, Padlet, or Google Docs). An ideal booking for Janet is a virtual workshop for teachers, followed by working with students (either virtually or on-site), with a virtual “autographing party” or a poetry celebration for families a few days later.\
Janet’s work addresses a wide variety of topics and genres for a K-8 audience that includes picture books, poetry, chapter books, books to inspire writing, verse novels, and professional books for use by teachers, librarians, and parents. Among her honors and accolades: she has been featured on CNN and Oprah; has read at the White House; has been honored with ILA’s “Celebrate Literacy” Award; and has served on many prestigious committees, such as the NCTE Commission on Literature and the ILA Notable Books for a Global Society committee.
Perhaps what is most distinctive about Janet’s work, in terms of school visits, is its adaptability to a virtual environment and its appeal to the whole school community. Principals will want to read poems over morning announcements using GREAT Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud. P.E. teachers will want to use TWIST: Yoga Poems, either in person or online. Science teachers will love The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science. And chess-playing families will want to make their own lists of “Top 10 Chess Tips” inspired by Alex and the Wednesday Chess Club.
Whether virtually or in-person, Janet’s assemblies are high-energy, interactive mixes of storytelling and poetry with a blend of writing pep talk and an explanation of the publishing process. Children love her suitcase of props (with each prop connected to a poem or story), while teachers and parents enjoy hearing about Janet’s transition from lawyer to published author. Janet packs the writing workshop with tips on craft and makes it easy for students to write an excellent first draft of a poem (providing the basis for an exercise in revision that teachers can continue). The most-reluctant readers and writers often become fans of poetry after one of Janet’s visits!