Poet gets marketers well-versed in appealing to school age kids

Kwame Alexander, David Sable and Randy Preston

Kwame Alexander, David Sable and Randy Preston

One of the biggest issues exercising the minds of marketers is how to market to, and communicate with school-aged children. To help shed light on the problem, David Sable, non-executive chairman of VMLY&R, introduced author and founding editor of Versify, Kwame Alexander, at a seminar in the Debussy. The poet and author of 32 books has a huge audience of schoolkids. “The conventional wisdom is that kids don’t read books these days,” Sable said. “But they certainly do read Kwame’s books, so how does that happen?”

Alexander revealed he started writing love poems when he saw an “amazing woman on the bus, and after a year of me writing poems to her every day, she agreed to marry me. At that point I realised that poetry could transform lives, and after that the idea of writing for kids in the hope of changing their lives for the better seemed natural.”

Alexander’s love affair with literature was kickstarted by his father who insisted that he read both the dictionary and also his PhD dissertation: “Clearly as a ten-year old that was quite tough, but it also made me realise that books for kids should be like an amusement park where they get to choose the ride.”

He also believes that poetry provides a point of entry for kids: “It has a lot of white space, which kids find welcoming,” he added. “We have to give kids the need to read, and we have a responsibility to bring the words off the page and onto the stage. That’s why I come to places like this with (guitarist and singer) Randy Preston. In the last three years we have visited over 1000 schools all over the US and Europe, because reading is a bridge to becoming more human and connected.”

Harriet Palmer