Poetry and Personification


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Recognizing literary elements is an essential comprehension strategy on our CAFE Menu. Personification is a literary element that is a common core requirement for many students. This poem is rich with meaning, things to talk about, and is a wonderful introduction to personification.

Here is how you might use it with your students.

Introduce the word personification. Highlight the word person within personification and share that personification means giving human characteristics to something that is not human. It is a writing technique that J. Patrick Lewis uses in his poem.

Give each student a copy of the poem "Are You a Book Person?" from the book Please Bury Me in the Library, and read it aloud. Ask students to read it to themselves and circle the various ways the author compares a book to a person.

After a few minutes, have students share with an elbow buddy, allowing them to learn from each other and revise their findings.

Then have them share their thoughts with the class. What do all these things mean?

The third-grade students I worked with started with basic comparisons like “A book has a spine, and a person has a spine.” Their thoughts turned more insightful with “The heart—it’s like the middle of the book, where the excitement happens” and “The heart is the part of the book that makes you feel something.” “Maybe the soul is the part of the book that stays with you forever.” Wow!

After discussing what the personification discoveries might mean, we ended with inferring what J. Patrick Lewis’s purpose might be. What does he want us to take away from this poem, and how do we know?

At the end of the lesson, every student agreed that they liked the poem better and understood it at a deeper level after rereading and thinking more deeply about it.  

J. Patrick Lewis was kind enough to give us permission to share the poem with you in its entirety, so if you are interested, you can share it with your students as well.  

Are You a Book Person?
~J. Patrick Lewis

A good book is a kind
Of person with a mind
Of her own,
Who lives alone,
Standing on a shelf
By herself.
She has a spine,
A heart, a soul,
And a goal?
To capture, to amuse,
To light a fire
(You're the fuse),
Or else, joyfully,
Just to be,
From beginning
To end.
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