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L.A. Citywide Teen Poetry Competition


Alhambra High and other teams entering quarterfinals for the Classic Slam   Photo ⓒ Thomas Chen
Alhambra High and other teams entering quarterfinals for the Classic Slam
Photo ⓒ Thomas Chen




Calling all budding poets, poetry fans and supporters. Join students from over 22 L.A. County high schools this Saturday, April 27, 2013, as they face off to “SLAM” the most prolific poems. Prepare to be wowed!!  And get this – it’s a free event, but you must reserve your tickets in advance at:

Diane Luby Lane, Get Lit founder at Wiltern Theater Classic Slam  Photo ⓒ Thomas Chen
Diane Luby Lane, Get Lit founder at Wiltern Theater Classic Slam
Photo ⓒ Thomas Chen

WHAT: Get Lit, a leading non-profit presenter of literary performance, education, and teen poetry programs, is hosting the 2nd Annual CLASSIC SLAM, a citywide teen poetry competition where high school students from more than 22 different L.A. County high school and regions face off in teams to “slam” classic poems by poets like Neruda, Lorca, Hughes, Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, Angelou and more in combination with their own spoken word responses.

Roosevelt Team, Classic Slam  Photo ⓒ Thomas Chen
Roosevelt Team, Classic Slam
Photo ⓒ Thomas Chen

CLASSIC SLAM is held every April during National Poetry Month, judged by some of the top artists and leaders in the community. This year’s judges include author and lecturer Marianne Williamson, American civil-rights attorney Lisa Bloom, actor, director and producer LeVar Burton, American poet and writer Jimmy Santiago Baca, television and film director Seith Mann and poet, musician and artist Jerry Quickley. Rapper and poet George Watsky and poet, playwright and screenwriter Chinaka Hodge will host the event.

Scholarships and a trophy will be awarded to the winning team and teacher.

Photo credit for all images © Thomas Chen.

WHEN: Saturday, April 27th at the Orpheum Theater, 7:30 to 10:00 p.m.

Deanna Torres, Triumph Team poet Photo ⓒ Thomas Chen
Deanna Torres, Triumph Team poet
Photo ⓒ Thomas Chen


Orpheum Theater

842 Broadway

Los Angeles, CA 90014

About Get Lit – Words Ignite

Founded in 2005 in Los Angeles, Get Lit is a leading non-profit presenter of literary performance, education, and teen poetry programs. Get Lit uses the memorization and recitation of classic poetry as a launch pad for teen-created spoken word responses, fusing the two forms of expression into compelling performances, conducted by teens in school, after school, and through the organization’s own select group of Get Lit Players. These poet ambassadors from throughout Los Angeles perform both classic and spoken word poetry, inspiring fellow teens to read, write, participate in the arts, and be leaders in their community. Get Lit has reached over 15,000 at-risk teens in more than 45 high schools, turning students into motivated scholars inspired to stay in school and thrive. To learn more please visit and

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Family-friendly BookFest, Downtown L.A.

As part of the March 2013 celebrations for the National Education Association’s Read Across America Day, Grand Park has created Grand Park’s Downtown BookFest, a multi-faceted, multi-generational community event that salutes the enjoyment of reading and the importance of literacy.  Grand Park’s Downtown BookFest takes place on Saturday, March 2, 2013 from 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. at Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles, from Grand Avenue to Hill Street (Blocks One and Two of the park).  Park visitors will enjoy a wide variety of activities inspired by the simple pleasures of reading a good book under the blue sky in an urban green setting.


Designed for families and book lovers of all ages, Grand Park’s Downtown BookFest features readings from independent book stores, children’s story circles, crafts for children, musical performers, food trucks and other activities based on the power of the written word.  In addition, Grand Park will inaugurate four little free lending libraries, which are miniature libraries that operate on the honor system, allowing visitors to “take a book, leave a book.”  The concept, spearheaded by the nonprofit organization, Little Free Library, is a grass roots movement to encourage reading and provide easy access to books.

Activities at Grand Park’s Downtown BookFest include:

• Readings and a pop-up book store presented by The Last Bookstore and Writ Large Press, representing the authors and publications of 25 Los Angeles-based independent publishers;
mail-1• Book sales and literacy information provided by non-profit writing and tutoring center, 826 LA;
• Book swaps and giveaways by Libros Schmibros;
• Children’s crafts presented by the Central Library and Ryman Arts, which provides teens with free access to visual arts education;
• Performances by DJs Phyz Ed and Danny Holloway;
• Performance by bilingual children’s author, educator and recording artist, José Luis-Orozco; and
• Presentation by the first poet laureate of Los Angeles, Eloise Healey, who was named to this newly created position by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in December 2013.  Healey will open the event and read from some of her poetry.

Visitors will also enjoy food provided by three popular food trucks, including The Lobos Truck (American), Mandoline Grill (Vietnamese) and Cool Cow (ice cream).

Current park programs include Lunchtime Yoga retreat (Wednesdays and Fridays) as well as Lunchtime Concerts in Grand Park (Tuesdays).  More information and an event calendar can be found at

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You Better Watch Out!


I’m excited to share my review of  Santa is Coming to California, one title in a clever new series from Scotland based illustrator Robert Dunn and UK based author Steve Smallman published by Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky ($9.99, ages 4 and up).

Old Saint Nick is getting his Santa-nav ready by entering the correct coordinates for California and then off he will go! Imagine how much fun you’ll have reading this story to your children as you follow Santa’s sleigh and reindeer as they make tracks from the North Pole all the way to the Golden State! Not only will you love the spirited illustrations, but you’ll also love how the story subtly teaches a geography lesson.

9781402277757Santa and company get lost in fog, but when they get reoriented they are zooming over the Golden Gate Bridge and all of San Francisco’s notable sites. Eventually they make it to Hollywood plus other delightful points here and yonder despite some weary and hungry first-rate sleigh pullers.

If you’re not a California resident, you can take advantage of Santa is Coming To My House, virtually the same picture book with a different cover and without the specific city names and landmarks (hence some different illustrations) so any child anywhere can enjoy it!

So which list are you on?

-Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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Read! Build! Learn! With LEGO and Libraries

LEGO and Libraries – A Good Fit

I have never known a child who did not love to play with LEGO building bricks, but I have met many a reluctant reader.  Now like a little foot in its first shoe, LEGO is partnering with libraries all over the country and offering a one-of-a-kind experience that’s a good fit, too: Read! Build! Play! And just how lucky are we? Los Angeles is the first stop! That’s a super step forward to encourage reading we can all build on. If you cannot make it to the library event, (on Tuesday, June 26th from 11a.m. noon at the LA Public Central Library 630 West 5th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90071 – Cost is free. Participation is first come, first serve) be sure to visit this new website that provides families tips, suggestions and ideas on how to keep playtime fresh, energetic and educational –

Everyone knows that, from birth, reading and play are critical to a child’s growth – so why not combine the two? Designed for children under five, the Read, Build, Play experience brings together reading and building in a fun, educational way. As story tellers read, children will be encouraged to build, sing, play and explore through original games and creative activities.

Support libraries across the country and encourage children’s play and learning development. 

The experience also celebrates the hard work of librarians in their quest to help grow our youth.  In June, the Association of Library Service to Children kicked off a national program with LEGO DUPLO in which parents can support their local library by nominating them to receive special recognition for all their hard work.

Beat boredom this summer with the program’s website, Check it out for suggestions and ideas on how to keep playtime energetic and educational. Download unique activity kits to involve you and your kids in a variety of ways to play and read. At this site, anyone will also be able to find ways to support their local libraries, including online nominations for recognition in the Read! Build! Play! program. 

Parents – you can link to the website to vote for your local library and download the activity guide while reading. And if you do attend the event be on the lookout for a 6-foot X 6-foot book stack model made entirely of vibrant DUPLO bricks.  

Order some copies of the new Read and Build sets from LEGO DUPLO. Just this month, a series of sets were released that are meant to inspire young children to read and build along with the story line. 3 sets of books and bricks like Grow Caterpillar Grow! and Busy Farm blend reading with construction play for a new, fun way to encourage directed and free play, and hands-on exploration while reading. 




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