What started as a way for a young German girl to learn English later transformed into a passion for poetry and a publishing company for Sylvia Vardell, Texas Woman’s University school of library and information studies professor.
In addition to her success as a professor and publisher, Vardell is a recipient of the ALA Scholastic Library and Publishing Award and the TWU Distinction and Scholarship Award, according to the TWU website.
Despite her clear success, Vardell radiates humility. “I’ve worked hard, but I have had lots of lucky opportunities too,” she said. Vardell described Pomelobooks, the publishing company she and her friend and colleague, Janet Wong, launched, as her greatest career accomplishment because it has allowed her to share her love of poetry. “One of the things I love about poetry is that it just really touches your heart and sticks with you. That’s why people share poems at wedding toasts and hospital bedsides and funerals because it really captures some deep feelings and universal experiences,” Vardell said.
When collecting poems to publish, Vardell said she does a lot of field testing. She seeks pieces that are not only current, but also provide “a teaching component so people who are not lovers of poetry have some strategies to share poetry in ways that are fun and interesting to kids.”
Vardell acknowledged that many people say they dislike poetry. Perhaps that stems from the way poetry is taught. “Poetry doesn’t have to be hard. We get to school, and it’s time to get deep and analyze, and a lot of the poetry love falls to the wayside, and that’s a shame. There is so much out there that is just to be savored and enjoyed, and it doesn’t require a deep analysis just to enjoy it.”
Another benefit of reading poetry, according to Vardell, is that many poems’ use of rhyme and clear vocabulary helps boost children’s reading skills. “Becoming a reader is the key to just about everything that makes you a successful adult,” she said. Vardell recalled how her mother read aloud to her, which introduced her to literature. From that experience, her love of poetry, reading and learning was born. “In the workplace, in communication, in survival, if you can’t read, you are very limited in what you can achieve in life and how you can cope, so I think reading is just absolutely essential,” Vardell said, noting that poetry is meant to be read aloud. Vardell’s works are available for purchase at amazon.com and quepbooks.com, and to follow her journey via her blog, go to poetryforchildren.com.
Photo Courtesy of Sylvia Vardell