About Kalli :: Teacher* Poet* Author*
Kalli Dakos is the best-selling author of over 3,000 poems about elementary school life. She has six ILA/CBC Children’s Choice Selections that include If You’re Not Here, Please Raise Your Hand, The Bug in Teacher’s Coffee, Don’t Read This Book, Whatever You Do!, and A Funeral in the Bathroom.
Kalli is celebrating the publication of three new books this year.
They Only See the Outside is a collection of poems that explores children’s experiences on the “inside,” and feelings that may not be seen on the “outside.”
My Story Friend is the tale of a child who has a sad story to share, but most people are too busy or too afraid to listen. He treks across the land until he finds an old woman who is willing to listen. The sheer act of telling his story to someone who really cares lifts his heavy heart and helps him to find solutions to his problems.
Our Farm in the City is the tale of a young girl who finds great adventures on an experimental farm in the middle of the city of Ottawa (capital of Canada). She explores the arboretum, the gardens, the experimental plants and the farm animals, and decides to invite “everyone she knows and everyone she doesn’t know” to visit this very real farm in Ottawa.
Kalli would like you to know about two other very special books, published in 2019.
Get Me Out of This Book, Rules and Tools for Being Brave, is the story of Max, the bookmark, who is afraid of the scary pictures in books. He attends Advanced Bookmark School where he learns three strategies, used by the Navy SEALs, to handle his fears and to create a plan of action in challenging times.
Recess in the Dark, Poems from the Far North, is a collection of twenty-four original poems that celebrate recess during the dark season in the Arctic. Eric Mercer has created stunning illustrations to go with the poems.
Kalli’s picture book, Our Principal Promised to Kiss a Pig, (also a Children’s Choice Selection) is an introduction to Shakespearean language for young children.
Kalli visits schools all over the United States and Canada, and has worked internationally in schools as far away as Hong Kong. She is presently beginning to conduct school visits on zoom.
As a former teacher and reading specialist, she uses her educational background to design school visits that provide sound reinforcement for standards of learning disguised as high-energy fun and filled with audience participation.
Her huge selection of props and toys pulls in even the most reluctant readers and writers and keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. Everyone becomes involved in the drama of the elementary school world.
Children discover a goldmine of writing possibilities, from the pencils on their desks to the secrets in their hearts. Teachers, principals, custodians, secretaries and parents are all encouraged to read, write, and perform poetry along with the students.
When we teach from within the spirit of childhood,
we have our greatest strength as educators.
Kalli’s books and school/conference programs are a celebration of this spirit.
Frequently Asked Questions About Kalli
These questions were asked by Leslie and Callie at Hunters Woods Elementary School in Fairfax County, VA.
Where were you born?
I was born in Ottawa, Canada, and lived in Canada until I was twenty-seven years old. Then I moved to the United States and lived in the states of Nevada, New York and Virginia. Now, I have a home in Ottawa and an office in Ogdensburg, NY and I split my time between the country of my birth and my adopted country.
What universities did you attend?
Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario for a Bachelor of Arts Degree and a Bachelor of Education Degree.
The University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta and the University of Nevada at Reno for a Master of Arts Degree.
Syracuse University for graduate courses in journalism.
What were your main interests as a child?
I loved riding my bike, jumping rope, exploring the woods near my home, playing board games, building forts in the snow, ice skating (a favorite), skiing, tobogganing, reading, writing, and playing with my sisters, cousins and friends. I had pen pals all over the world, and I loved to “play school” as often as possible, and I was always the teacher. I directed plays and Christmas shows, ran mini-summer camps and organized activities for the children in my neighborhood.
Tell us about your family and the people who played important roles in your life.
My father was my first and best storyteller. He would tell stories at every meal, whenever we drove in the car and before we went to bed. I loved to listen to the way he wove stories from his imagination. Unfortunately, he died when I was twelve-years-old, but I never forgot his stories.
I have three younger sisters who were my “students” when we played school, and I directed them in plays and productions. I also remember that I loved to read my own stories out loud to anyone who would listen, and my mother was my favorite listener.
My Aunt Irene had so many books in her bedroom that she didn’t have room for a bed, so she would turn a sofa into a bed every evening. I loved looking at all her books, and her great love for literature inspired me to become a reader just like her.
When did you first try to get your writing published and how did you go about it?
I began to work as a professional writer many years ago. I read all kinds of books on "how to get stories and articles published" and I started to send out manuscripts to magazine editors. In the beginning, I received many "rejection letters" but finally my stories began to be accepted by the magazines. I was also writing for the local newspaper at the time and taking courses in journalism at Syracuse University.
Several years later I decided to submit my material to book publishers. It took over five years and over one hundred rejection letters to get my first book of poetry, If You're Not Here, Please Raise Your Hand, Poems About School, published.
What did you major in and minor in in college?
My major was in English and Elementary Education and my minor was in Psychology. I now write for Magination Press which is the children’s book imprint of the American Psychological Association and I get to experience all my interests at once – literature, education and psychology.
Did you have any other dreams that you did not pursue?
I have pursued many of my dreams, but I would like to write a television or movie script one day and do stage productions of my poems about school.
What grade levels do you like to teach?
I love teaching at all levels, even the college level. For several years I taught reading and writing courses at Northern Virginia Community College in Sterling, VA and I loved it. As a reading specialist, I worked with students from K-12.
What is your favorite style of poetry to write?
I love poems with different rhyme schemes and shapes, and I enjoy writing poetic mini-plays. When I am writing very serious poems, I often write them in free verse.
Where do you get your ideas for writing poetry?
All I have to do is open my eyes in a school and listen very carefully to everything teachers and students say, and I have more ideas than I will ever be able to write. I've written over 100 poems about pencils! This evening I took a walk and it looked like there were a million diamonds sparkling on the snow. I had to come home and write a poem. The ideas are everywhere!
Did you write poetry for kids before you had your own children?
I have always loved to write poetry, but it took me many years to see all the wonderful poetry ideas in my school. After my daughter was born I took a few years to concentrate on my writing. When I went back to teach again, it was as if I had on a pair of "magic glasses" because I could see the poetry ideas everywhere in my school.
How many children do you have and are they interested in writing like you?
I have one daughter who is presently writing plays and working to bring them to production. She is also working on a novel for children. We co-authored Our Principal Promised to Kiss a Pig, and we are writing several other picture books together.
If you had to sum up your life in a couple of sentences, what would you say?
Poetry reminds me to have fun, to celebrate life, to take time in nature, to listen carefully to children and teachers and to look inside my heart for the answers to important questions. I have been fortunate to travel all over the United States and Canada to share my poems with thousands of teachers and students.
I love the quote in Dead Poet's Society that says:
“One reads poetry because he is a member of the human race, and the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, banking -- these are necessary to sustain life. But poetry, romance, love and beauty. These are what we are alive for."
Poetry has been one of the greatest gifts in my life!