Withrow teaches kids about writing tools

Withrow looks on as a little girl reads a story for him. Photos by James Kinneen

By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter

On Tuesday afternoon, Steven Withrow visited the Wellesley Library to teach a small group of kids all about ways poets and authors play with language to describe things without using pictures. Withrow, a teacher, poet and author of “A Poem is a Chameleon,” came from Falmouth to teach the kids.

“The goal was to start to get kids to think about what figures of speech are, and how we explain things in relation to each other," Withrow explained. "It’s tough with the different ages and reading levels, but I think by the end, even the five-year-old could see what I was getting at.”

To accomplish this, Withrow tried to explain to the kids: “Where I live there’s a lot of fog. Is fog loud or soft? Are cat feet loud or soft? So, if I was to say that fog is like a cat, would that make sense?” Later one of the girls in attendance would compare a woman’s dress in one of the stories they were reading to fog, due to its puffy and flowing nature, showing Withrow that clearly, she had understood the concept.

When Withrow came across the “foxtrot” in one of his poems, he tried to explain to the girls why the dance would be so-called. “What if I called my dance the slug stomp, would that be a fast dance or a slow dance?” he asked. “So what do you think the foxtrot is?”

The most advanced grammatical concept Withrow tried to explain was the simile, the comparison using “like” or “as.” Withrow said that although he is from Cape Cod, he has a friend from Indiana that has never seen the ocean. To help his friend, he asked that the girls in the audience explain what the ocean was like using similes, which led to their ideas that the ocean is “like a huge swimming pool,” “like a tide pool,” and “like a giant blue bucket of paint.”

Withrow did his best to keep the kids engaged, but the microphones the local cable access station had set up to record them were a tough distraction to deal with. Although they weren’t supposed to, many times, the kids answered directly into the microphones, like they were contestants on a game show. That’s a simile.

Still, when they left the library, the kids had developed a better understanding of how writers use the tools of their trade.

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