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Cover: Come To Life Stories No. 3

The cover of a classic pop-up book featuring the story "Puss in Boots."

It wouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me even a little bit that my love of words and my love of cats developed almost simultaneously. This was due in large part to the almost-prescient wisdom of my mother, who in the earliest days of my life procured a copy of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot. I liked that book so much, I asked my mother to read it to me again and again and again, until I’d memorized the words themselves. It wasn’t too long afterward that I began to realize all those odd shapes on the page had sounds associated with them … and soon enough, little toddler JaneA was reading!

What does this have to do with pet poetry contests? Quite a lot, actually. My experience has taught me that any time we can teach kids to love words and care for animals at the same time, we do a great service to the world and to our future. So when I learned about the 4th Annual Pets Add Life Children’s Poetry Contest, I was delighted to spread the word.

The contest offers students in grades 3 through 8 a chance to write their own original poem about their pets, what they love about them and the joy those pets bring to their lives. Once the poem is finished, students can enter online at petsaddlife.org or download the submission form and send it, along with their poem, by postal mail to:

Pets Add Life
661 Sierra Rose Dr.
Reno, NV 89511

Third- through eighth-grade teachers can also incorporate this national contest into their lesson plans and submit their students’ poems on behalf of their classrooms.

And what’s the prize? One student from each grade will win a $250 gift certificate for pet products and get to see their poem, with their “by-line,” in a nationally circulated publication. A chance to get published before you’re even out of middle school? How awesome is that?

But it gets better. The six winning students’ classrooms will each win a $1,000 scholarship to spend on pet-related education. Considering how school budgets across the US are being brutally slashed, imagine how great it would be for a teacher to get a thousand bucks to incorporate pet education into their curriculum. The best way to get kids engaged in their education is to make learning fun, after all.

Winning teachers have spent the scholarship dollars on classroom field trips to the zoo, a classroom pet and supplies, and educational materials regarding pet and animal wellness. But the possibilities are limited only by imagination.

The deadline for submissions is January 31, 2012 at 5 p.m. EST, so get writing! Winners will be notified by March 11, 2012.

And of course, I couldn’t leave this post without sharing a passage from “Mr. Mistoffeles,” one of my favorite poems from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats:

The cover of Old Possum's Book of Practical CatsYou ought to know Mr. Mistoffelees!
The Original Conjuring Cat —
(There can be no doubt about that).
Please listen to me and don’t scoff. All his
Inventions are off his own bat.
There’s no such Cat in the metropolis;
He holds all the patent monopolies
For performing suprising illusions
And creating eccentric confusions.
At prestidigitation
And at legerdemain
He’ll defy examination
And deceive you again.
The greatest magicians have something to learn
From Mr. Mistoffelees’ Conjuring Turn.

This post is sponsored by the Pets Add Life campaign and the American Pet Products Association. Although I am being compensated for helping to spread the word about the benefits and joys of pet ownership, the opinions expressed here are my own.

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