Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Classroom Connections with Carole Boston Weatherford


The Roots of Rap:
16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-Hop

Carole Boston Weatherford, Author
Frank Morrison, Illustrator

little bee books (January 8, 2019)
ISBN: 978-1499804119 

For all ages (K-12)

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The roots of rap and the history of hip-hop have origins that precede DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash. Kids will learn about how it evolved from folktales, spirituals, and poetry, to the showmanship of James Brown, to the culture of graffiti art and breakdancing that developed around the art form and gave birth to the musical artists we know today. Lyrical rhythm combines with flowing, vibrant illustrations to illustrate how hip-hop is a language spoken the whole world ’round. The book includes a glossary and features a foreword by Swizz Beatz, a Grammy Award-winning American hip-hop rapper, DJ, and record producer.


Text copyright © 2019 by Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Frank Morrison.
From THE ROOTS OF RAP: 16 BARS ON THE 4 PILLARS OF HIP-HOP (little bee books).

"Folktales, street rhymes, spirituals—rooted in spoken word.  
Props to poets Hughes and Dunbar; published. Ain't you heard?"

© 2019 Carole Boston Weatherford, all rights reserved.


Read Carole Boston Weatherford’s spotlight
interview on Today's Little Ditty HERE.

Carole Boston Weatherford has authored 55 books, including three Caldecott Honor and two NAACP Image Award winners and five titles that have won Coretta Scott King Awards or Honors. Her best-known books include: Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, Before John Was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane, Freedom in Congo Square, Becoming Billie Holiday and Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer. Her latest picture book is The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-Hop. Carole is a professor at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina.


Why is bringing poetry into the classroom important?

Poetry tickles the tongue, trains the ear to listen and appeals to the emotional intelligence. Poetry also has white space, which struggling readers may find more inviting than prose.

How might your book be incorporated into an educational curriculum?

The Roots of Rap can be used during the study of African American poetry and musical and oral traditions. Students can compare rap lyrics to Paul Laurence Dunbar's  dialect poems and Langston Hughes' blues poems.

Much of my work is inspired by oral traditions and African rhythms and invites choral reading or call-and-response. As such, The Roots of Rap could be paired with such titles as Freedom in Congo Square, Sugar Hill: Harlem's Historic Neighborhood, The Sound that Jazz Makes, Before John Was a Jazz Giant, Jazz Baby, or Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Dream and You. 

Can you suggest a specific classroom exercise related to your book?

The best rap lyrics not only rhyme but utilize multiple literary devices. Here is a handout developed by Paul Carl explaining literary elements and citing examples from rap lyrics. The accompanying exercise asks students to identify those elements in excerpts from rap songs.

What is a simple, practical tip for teachers when it comes to incorporating poetry in the classroom?

Share one poem a week with your students. Read it aloud every day. Do not require the students to memorize or analyze the poem, just to listen and connect with it in their own way.

Can you recount a specific instance of when poetry impacted a student or group of students in a positive way?

I recently shared The Roots of Rap at a public library. I also mentioned having composed my first poem in first grade. A few weeks later, I heard that a first grader who was in the audience has been writing a poem a day ever since.


Twitter: @poetweatherford
Instagram: @caroleweatherford

Many thanks to Carole for participating in our Classroom Connections series for National Poetry Month, and to little bee books for providing me with a copy of The Roots of Rap for one randomly selected TLD reader!

To enter, leave a comment below or send an email with the subject "Roots of Rap Giveaway" to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com by Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Winners will be announced on Thursday, May 2nd, so be sure to check back to see if you've won!

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Check out the other Classroom Connections posts and giveaways on offer this month by clicking the names below!

  • Eric Ode (Otters, Snails and Tadpole Tails: Poems from the Wetlands)
  • Kip Wilson (White Rose) 

Digital art © 2018 by Miranda Barnes,
based on a line from "Ghazal" by Tracy K. Smith.


The best way to keep up with the Classroom Connections series is by subscribing to Today's Little Ditty via email, which you can do in the sidebar. I will also be announcing the posts on social media. Like me on Facebook and/or follow me on Twitter (also in the sidebar) to stay informed that way. Catch up with Classroom Connections posts you may have missed by clicking on the "It's time to INSPIRE" icon in the sidebar, or by visiting my "Poetry in the Classroom" board on Pinterest.


  1. Good Morning and Great Thanks to Michelle and Carole for today's post. My favorite line that I will share with educators is, " The best rap lyrics not only rhyme but utilize multiple literary devices." What we teach/learn is literally the world we live in but with greater understanding. I love that RAP is so grounded in tradition. The study of American History through music is one of my favorite ways to learn. Can't wait to see this book in the hands of my mg students.

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Michelle, I didn't realize Carole had a new book out. And Carole, congratulations - I'm eager to read this! Sometimes when I'm talking to students about poetry, I'll make reference to Eminem, Snoop, or the Beastie Boys and everyone in the room is surprised that I bring them up - but it's a great way to introduce devices like internal rhyme, alliteration, etc.

  3. I love this new book by Carole, beautiful to read and see! As I say every day, I'll share with former colleagues. It's a help to have new books and ideas in the classroom. Thanks, Carole and Michelle.

  4. I feel such a connection to poetry, but totally fail when it comes to rap. I know my students probably feel like I'm old school, so I think I need to get this new collection. Carole's work is on my shelves, so instructive as well as lyrical. I will explore the Paul Carl handout. Thanks!

  5. Love the snippets I've read from this book, and the art looks stunning. Carol offered so much great information in the interview, as well. Thanks, Heidi!

  6. What an outstanding post!! Thank you so much! This is my 20th year teaching English and Spanish in an urban setting district. It is difficult sometimes to find books with content and/or characters that my students are able to relate to. From short stories and novels to poems and rap lyrics, it's so important for kids to see a reflection of themselves and their own lives in what they read...not only so they can develop a love for reading, but so they can also learn alongside the characters and grow as individuals, themselves. I would LOVE to win a copy of this book for my classroom! It would be a wonderful addition to our classroom library, and it would help guide and enhance my weekly lessons. I appreciate you sharing the lit elements activity above; I plan to use it 100%. Of course, my students will love it! I like how you said that poetry has white space, and kids may find it more inviting than prose. I couldn't agree more. My students struggle with reading and writing. Once I introduced them to the work of Jason Reynolds and Kwame Alexander, it was like a door opened to a world they never knew existed. For some of them, this is the first time in their lives, they are able to read, understand, interpret, and discuss a text without feeling intimidated by it. So exciting! I have a feeling The Roots of Rap will have a similar effect! :-) Either way, thank you for this awesome giveaway and best of luck to all. Keep up the amazing work, everyone! :-)
    tarafarah7 (at) gmail (dot) com
    Twitter: @tarafarah7