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Power Outages Underway, SDG&E Praise Unfair, Doctor Charged For Vaccine Exemptions

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Dangerous weather conditions have prompted authorities to shut off power for thousands of customers to prevent wildfires form igniting around the county. Also, PG&E is criticized for not being more like SDG&E in managing power outages, but is that a fair comparison? Plus, the medical board has charged a San Diego doctor who has been handing out vaccine exemptions, an author explains how poetry can get kids to read, and a new book explores how public spaces can fight polarization.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 As of early Thursday morning, Santa Ana winds started pushing through East County gust of 60 miles per hour have already been recorded and the national weather service says they could top 75 miles per hour through the mountains today with the exception of the coast, all of San Diego County is under a red flag warning until tomorrow at 5:00 PM for the very latest on conditions and preparations underway. We're joined by captain Thomas, chutes of Cal fire captain shoots. Welcome.

Speaker 2: 00:28 Thanks for having me.

Speaker 1: 00:29 Can you give us the latest on conditions in the East County?

Speaker 2: 00:33 Definitely the window. Looking at the wind chart, things are, are definitely cranking away in the East County. I'm pushing pushing East to West, which is really what gives us our, our Santa Ana winds. Um, in some places in the inner city areas you might be kind of sheltered, but uh, don't, uh, don't let that make you complacent or let that fool you because the, the potential is definitely there. The window's still pushing very strong and uh, the East County especially is, uh, is definitely feeling it right now.

Speaker 1: 01:01 I was going to ask if there are more areas that are in a more of a danger zone than others.

Speaker 2: 01:07 You know, the, the queer back area has the highest Gus right now at, at 56, but really all of South County, uh, portrayal area and everything has a, it's sitting in the high forties. And so, um, we really, uh, we really have these potentials anywhere that canyons lined up. But in San Diego County that's a, that's actually a number of places that we, uh, we have a high potential.

Speaker 1: 01:30 I know Cal fire has beefed up resources in preparation for the Santa Ana event. Can you tell us about the extra precautions you're taking?

Speaker 2: 01:38 Sure. So we are at peak staffing for, for the summer season. So we have a, a lot of equipment that's already stacked up, um, for this time of year. On top of that. Um, we've added extra aircraft, extra fire engines, bulldozers, hand crews, um, pretty much everything under the sun. You could think of, uh, to make sure that, um, if we do have a major wildfire kickoff, that, that we're, uh, that we're ready to go.

Speaker 1: 02:01 PG and E has come under heavy criticism for how they've handled so-called public safety power. Shutoffs SDG and E has already cut power to hundreds of customers with the potential of more than 40,000. That could lose power from the perspective of Cal fire. Are these power shutoffs helping?

Speaker 2: 02:18 Uh, you know, it's, it's a really tough to say, and I don't have any of those statistics on that, but, um, we definitely, we definitely know that anything that could cause a spark during these conditions is something that we don't want. Um, and so we, uh, we appreciate any effort, uh, especially from the public, you know, right now the little things that you may not think of, like keeping your vehicle maintains. Uh, you know, we have fires start from vehicle fires, from Cadillac converters, um, you know, causing fires from people, dragging chains down the highway. All these things that seem little, um, can really have catastrophic, uh, affects, especially during these red red flag times.

Speaker 1: 02:57 And we reported yesterday the wildfire computer system developed at UC San Diego that helps fire authorities know where a fire is headed. Can you tell us more about how helpful that system can be? Should a fire breakout?

Speaker 2: 03:11 Yeah, so, uh, our, our emergency command center has access to all the, all the cameras. Um, they're, uh, stationed on peaks around San Diego County and, and really outside of CU County, but we're just focused on the ones here. We have the ability to control, to zoom in and to really, uh, help us figure out when we get calls all the time for a first smoke scene, it gives us a better idea of, okay, is this a a smoke check where we need to send a couple engine? Or is this a, is this an active fire? And we need to, uh, send all the resources that we have available. And so having that camera system to be able to check things and then watch, uh, basically real time of what a fire is doing is, is, uh, very helpful for us.

Speaker 1: 03:52 And speaking of real time, are there any fires going in San Diego County right now?

Speaker 2: 03:57 I see, so far so good. Although that same network of cameras has showed us that there is a fire burning in Mexico. Um, we are getting several reports on that, but it's deep enough into Mexico to where it's not a current threat for us. Um, but we are keeping an eye on that. And then obviously we know, uh, Northern California with similar conditions today has a fire that erupted a 10,000 acres over night. Um, we know that they have a similar potential that we do and so we should use that as a, as a precautionary tale that if we get a spark in, in the, the right or wrong place today, um, it can really cause us some big challenges.

Speaker 1: 04:33 And with those fires that are happening like in Mexico and other places, how are we sending resources to help?

Speaker 2: 04:41 Uh, we do have the ability to send resources into Mexico. The, the fire down there, um, is currently small enough to where it's, it's, uh, not a, not a major concern at this point. Um, but San Diego did San resources up to assist, uh, with the fires in Northern California and the resources we have staffed not just in Cal fire and San Diego County fire, but with our local government partners, our federal partners, we're able to send resources to these fires without causing any lack of coverage in our area.

Speaker 1: 05:11 Well, it sounds like it will be a few busy days ahead for you all. Stay safe out there.

Speaker 2: 05:17 Thank you very much.

Speaker 1: 05:18 I've been speaking with captain Thomas, chutes of Cal fire captain shoots. Thanks again for joining us.

Speaker 2: 05:24 Appreciate it. Thank you.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Precautionary power shutdowns are taking place in the East County today as howling Santa Ana winds rake through the back country and to SDG, and E's says more than 41,000 residents could have their power shutoff sometime during this red flag event. Still, it's nowhere near the hundreds of thousands left without power when Pacific gas and electric shut down power in Northern California. Since then, politicians and pundits have praised San Diego gas and electric as an example of better wildfire preparedness as part of our California dream collaboration. KPBS is Claire Traeger. Sir looks into what's being been done here in San Diego and how it works.

Speaker 2: 00:40 It's bright and sunny out, but dark as night inside live Oak market and liquor, a small store in the far Eastern portion of San Diego County owner, Matthew NISO, skins the Isles,

Speaker 3: 00:52 this all [inaudible] here because it's hot now.

Speaker 2: 00:57 His power was turned off by SDG ne as a precaution against wildfires. He says the outage will cost him $12,000 in lost goods

Speaker 3: 01:06 and plus the business today and yesterday. Here to save is nothing good, like a dangerous, okay. Why can't the power [inaudible]?

Speaker 2: 01:15 NISO is clearly frustrated, but he was only one of about 500 customers who lost power a few weeks ago in Northern California. PG knee cut power to more than 700,000 customers. These quote public safety power shutoffs have become the new normal across California with increased heat and wildfire danger. But in San Diego, the number of customers affected is much smaller. In six years, a combined total of only 52,000 customers have lost power in SDG and E's operation center. Limiting the size of shutoffs is a priority.

Speaker 3: 01:53 So yes, our our meteorology team right now of course is kind of head down getting ready for the upcoming event.

Speaker 2: 02:00 Brian D'Agostino is SDG and E's director of fire science and climate adaptation. The event he's talking about is a hot and dry weekend with strong Santa Ana. Winds. Conditions ripe for a fire. He stands in front of five giant monitors showing live mountain top cameras and yellow, blue and red squiggles representing the utilities power lines.

Speaker 3: 02:22 A major change from 10 years ago is that we can see those days coming.

Speaker 2: 02:28 San Diego's utility serves a quarter as many customers over a far smaller area than PG nee and its terrain is less challenging to manage. But in the past decade, SDG knee has spent more than one point $5 billion on wildfire preparedness, including an overhaul of its grid to minimize large scale power shutoffs. All of this requires a lot of data, which SDG knee collects from 190 weather stations spread across the region. While PGNE also uses weather stations, they've only been set up recently, which means the utility doesn't yet have all the data. It needs

Speaker 3: 03:08 these tools, analyze all of the historical data and tell us, when do we have that type of day that can result in a catastrophic fire?

Speaker 4: 03:19 Are they better than in the North? The utilities in the North? Yeah, probably. But does that mean that they are the gold standard? Absolutely not.

Speaker 2: 03:29 Diane Jacob is a San Diego County supervisor and a longtime critic of SDG Annie. She says, the utility made those changes too late. Only after power lines started devastating fires in 2007 that burned hundreds of homes and killed two people.

Speaker 4: 03:46 They're more interested in covering their liability rear end. And they are about looking out for the best interest of those who have suffered losses and the rate payers,

Speaker 2: 03:58 Jacob says SDG uni is still behind on making the changes critical to preventing future fires.

Speaker 4: 04:05 Finish the job.

Speaker 2: 04:06 Brian D'Agostino with SDG knee counters that the utility is aggressively making improvements. He was one of the team of meteorologists first hired after the 2007 fires to collect data and avoid massive shutoffs. That's a process that PGNE is just beginning now.

Speaker 1: 04:26 Joining me is KPBS investigative reporter Claire Traeger, sir and Claire, welcome and key Marine. From your conversation with the business owner in East County, it doesn't always seem to make a lot of sense to residents. Why power is being shut off in their area. What's the criteria SDG and E uses,

Speaker 2: 04:45 right? So SDG [inaudible] says that they collect as much data as they can from their weather stations and you know, use satellites and try to pinpoint the areas that have the highest risk. And then they say they'll send out crews and even arborous, um, to try and cut tree branches and clear spaces around utility poles in the area so that, you know, branches don't start fall off and start fires, but then they also do need to use power. Shutoffs sometimes. And the one thing that STD, uni stressed is that that may mean cutting power further down the line. Um, so if they have to cut one line, people at the end of the line might also lose power even if they're not in an area that has that high risk. And so that leads to complaints like the one that this business owner was making where he's saying, we're not even in a fire prone area. You know, what's the deal? Why do we need to lose power? But he may have been connected to align that had to be cut in another area because of that risk.

Speaker 1: 05:45 Say now you contrast the areas and the terrain covered by SDG and E versus PGNE. But is that the whole difference? C you say PG and E is only starting the process now. What are they starting?

Speaker 2: 05:58 Well S so from the experts that I spoke with, um, they say that PG knee is starting to collect data the way SDG and E does. They now have 360 weather stations, I believe, but they only rolled them out somewhat recently. And that's far fewer weather stations per acre than SDG ni has. So at PGNE has more, but they cover a far wider area than STG does. They also haven't done the work on their grid to minimize impact when there are power shutoffs. So that's how they end up having to cut power to far bigger areas instead of the more surgical cuts the SDG can make. But one thing that I didn't get into in the radio story is that there are differences between SDG and E and PGNE. Any other differences? And one expert I spoke with said, one big difference is trees. Um, SDG has to manage thousands of trees, but he said PG and E has a different landscape. It's more like tens of millions of trees. Um, and PG and E's areas with high fire risk are more densely populated than San Diego's East County. So when they cut power impacts a lot more people. Even so is the utility

Speaker 1: 07:06 SDG and E being looked at as a model for utilities and high risk fire zones?

Speaker 2: 07:12 Yes, it seems that way because they started this data collection Oh Oh a longer time ago. And they have these meteorologists, the CPEC wouldn't speak to me for this story, but one of its directors told the LA times the STG has three pillars of success that are currently sources of failure for PGNE and those are forecasting fire danger, tailoring narrow outages and then communicating the emergencies with the public. Okay. Then

Speaker 1: 07:40 a supervisor Diane Jacobs says as Gigi and he hasn't done enough, what else does she want them to do?

Speaker 2: 07:47 So she says they're behind on a lot of specific efforts to minimize fire risks. For example, converting wood poles to steel poles, um, which means obviously that they wouldn't burn. Um, she says they need to do shortening the distances between their poles because when they're further apart it can lead the lines to arc and that might start fire and then clearing brush around their lines. And she says that they won't be done with all this until 2027 which is 20 years after the 2007 fires. And she says that that's way too long. Well, there's no doubt

Speaker 1: 08:21 about it. STG and he created a lot of bad blood in this community by fighting so long and so hard to have customers pick up the residual costs of the 2007 fires. Right. And by never accepting the judgment that their utility pole maintenance was partly to blame for that fire. So did you get a sense and talking with SDG and E use representative that the utility is trying to turn that public relations problem around,

Speaker 2: 08:47 right. I mean it seems like it would come as a surprise to a lot of people in San Diego. The SDG is getting this praise across the state, especially with this really recent news that the Supreme court has rejected their, their case to try and pass off the $380 million cost to rate payers. I think STG, and you would say that this is not a PR campaign, but legitimate efforts to combat fire by hiring this team of meteorologists and then they're rolling out new technology like artificial intelligence that kind of helps them predict, um, where a fire might start, where they need to do the most work and this fire innovation lab that's supposed to open next year, but whether it's deliberate PR moves or not, it seems to be working out for them as they're getting all of this attention across the state. I had been speaking with KPBS investigative reporter Claire Trek. Assert Claire. Thank you. Thank you. KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman contributed to this report.

Speaker 5: 09:44 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:00 A San Diego doctor is facing charges of negligence after issuing at least a thousand medical vaccine exemptions for school children. Dr Tara Zan fleet of South park is one of three doctors. The California medical board says granted inappropriate vaccine exemptions since 2015 that was the year the state eliminated the personal belief exemption that allowed children to avoid vaccinations if their parents had religious or ethical objections to them. Since then, the only exemption is medical and as voice of San Diego published earlier this year, some doctors like Zen fleet have been writing a whole lot of them. Joining me by Skype is voice of San Diego education reporter will Huntsburg and we'll welcome to the program. Hi Maureen. Thanks for having me. Dr Tara Zan Vliet admits to having written at least a thousand medical exemptions for vaccinations. How did you uncover this story? Well,

Speaker 2: 00:55 I first started writing about terrorism [inaudible]. Um, last March I had done a public records request into San Diego unified school district to find, try to find out how many exemptions were being written and who was writing them. And as soon as I got those documents back, they were immediately kind of shocking because a doctor, Tarzan bleeds name shows up far more than anyone else's. She's written a third of the medical exemptions in San Diego unified school district

Speaker 1: 01:27 and San Diego unified. Actually, we're as keeping those records of which doctors were actually writing these medical exemptions. Is that right?

Speaker 2: 01:35 That's right. I that wasn't something they were required to do. It wasn't up to them to approve or disapprove a medical exemptions, but they were starting to see a lot of medical exemptions and it was some thing that was raising a red flag for them. So that's right. They started keeping that document.

Speaker 1: 01:52 Now you talked to two doctors and fleet back last spring. What did she say about why she writes so many exemptions?

Speaker 2: 02:00 Well, she said she has a theory that she's writing them based on [inaudible] and a handful of other doctors have it too. And that is that a genetic predisposition to autoimmune disorders might slightly increase the risk of someone's, uh, ability to have a, a, a negative reaction to a vaccine. But I talked to a disease specialist at Rady children's hospital who said, that isn't entirely fully untested theory. There's no proof that that's the case whatsoever and that exampley or anyone else wanted to test it. They could design a study which would would show that's the case right now. There's nothing, no literature out there that shows a family history of autoimmune conditions increases your risk of having a, an adverse vaccine reaction.

Speaker 1: 02:49 What kind of auto immune diseases was she saying might lend a child to have a reaction to immunizations?

Speaker 2: 02:57 This newest case, she's been charged for by the medical board with gross negligence. She wrote that for uh, a child having a family history of psoriasis and asthma. Those are two conditions that are really on the edges of, of anything. The medical community, the American Academy of pediatricians recognizes this as a reason. So when I asked her about that last March, she took those off her website as lists did reasons that she might grant an exemption because she said they were open to misinterpretation. But, but in this case that she's been charged with, uh, yeah, she, she was basically only using letters from family members, not even medical documentation that said people in the child's lineage had had psoriasis and asthma.

Speaker 1: 03:47 Now is this a criminal charge against the doctor?

Speaker 2: 03:50 Is not, it's not a criminal charge at all. Um, it's a charge by the medical board of California. And should it go to trial, it will be heard by an administrative law judge. And uh, if she has found to have committed gross negligence said worst case scenario, she could lose her medical license. She could also be suspended.

Speaker 1: 04:10 Is there a concern that the large number of exemptions are written by doctors and bleed might affect the level of immunity in San Diego schools?

Speaker 2: 04:19 Well, that's what Dr. Marks or you're said a the infectious disease. And I talked to that, that she was creating pockets of unvaccinated children. And so, you know, the number of vaccinations that she, the number of exemption is that she claims to have written in the charging document is a thousand. Um, so yeah, I think, I think given that number it, what Dr. Sawyer said is quite possibly correct that it's contributing to pockets of places where the community immunity is not at 95%, which is, is what it needs to be to prevent for it to prevent the spread of disease through all people.

Speaker 1: 05:01 Now, as you've been telling us, your reporting voice of San Diego's reporting on this issue led in part to the new law that tightens the way these medical vaccine exemptions can be. Granted, we saw unprecedented protests in the state legislature as this new bill was debated. Have you had any unpleasant experiences while reporting this story?

Speaker 2: 05:24 Um, well thank you for asking about, uh, my experience, Maureen, but, um, you know, it hasn't been too bad. I've, I've certainly received a lot of very angry impassioned emails, um, from people say saying I'm contributing to endangering children. Um, and like you said, thanks at the Capitol, I think, uh, spun out of the realm of possibility of what anyone thought would happen. People, you know, throwing unknown substances onto people, people being attacked and um, people will seem to not have trust of not just the pharmaceutical industry, but you know, all of the pediatricians in this state, when it comes to this, the, the American Academy of pediatricians, a branch in California is all in agreement on when to vaccinate and when not to vaccinate. And, and there's a handful of people who see some great conspiracy fueled by the big pharma industry behind that.

Speaker 1: 06:23 Now, doctors Zan blade could lose her license, as you told us if she's found guilty of these charges, but she can continue to practice until the medical board rules, which could be some time from now. Could she still be writing these vaccine exemptions?

Speaker 2: 06:38 She could. She could, uh, you know, um, she seems to be more concerned about, uh, the state and regulators coming after her. So I'm not exact. She didn't respond to my latest request for comment, so I'm not exactly sure where her head's at on this right now, but certainly as long as she's a practicing physician, she can write a medical exemption for whatever reason she chooses to. But now with this new law that'll go into effect in 2021 people will be able to review those exemptions. If she writes more than five in a single school, in a singer single calendar year, then public health officials can review those. And if they find that they were written for reasons that don't line up with the AAP and the CDC, then they can overturn those.

Speaker 1: 07:24 I've been speaking with a voice of San Diego education reporter. We'll hunt Sperry. Well, thank you.

Speaker 2: 07:30 Thanks, Maureen.

Speaker 3: 07:34 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:00 New York times bestselling author and educator, Kwame Alexander has dedicated himself to getting kids excited about reading his book, crossover his. This year's one book, one San Diego selection for teens. KPBS evening edition host Maya Tribole C spoke with Kwame Alexander. Here's that interview. Kwame Alexander. Thank you so much for coming. Thanks for having me. Let's talk about reading. I have a ravenous reader, but I also have another child who forgive the pun and uses every excuse in the book not to read. Right. What advice would you give to a parent who is suffering the same as I am?

Speaker 2: 00:34 Books or amusement parks and sometimes you gotta let kids choose the rides. It's not about getting a kid to read the book. We think they want to read, find the book that's gonna connect with them, find out what about that book is going to make that kid feel engaged, inspired, empowered. My parents, well, my mother got it. My father didn't get it. My father made me read his dissertations, his college dissertations. He made me read books in the dictionary and the encyclopedia. And I had teachers like that and I just think, you know, adults, parents, teachers, librarians, educators, we've got to help kids find those books that are not just going to make them read but make them want to read. And that requires us to know our kids. Do they play basketball? Are they into gaming? Um, do they like flowers? Do they like birds? Do they like animals dogs and find those books that are going to have some of those themes, those topics that are going to make them feel sort of cool

Speaker 1: 01:29 and want to read more to read more. And your book, the crossover, it's part of KPBS is one book for teens and it's a new [inaudible]. It's got a really unique narration style where you use long form poetry. Right. Tell us about how that nuance storytelling draws people in.

Speaker 2: 01:46 Um, I think poetry is rhythmic. It's concise, it's short. And to the point you talk about sort of really heavy things and you can do it in a few words. There's a lot of white space. And so even the most reluctant of readers can say, well, I can get through that. I can make it through that. It's not intimidating to the eye. I think poetry builds confidence. I think it triggers voice. Um, I found poetry. My mother read to me a lot of poetry growing up. Um, it's, it's how I learned how to communicate. And if you think about it, my, it's how most of us learn how to communicate when we're little speaking, listening, um, reading and writing by the lullabies and the nursery rhymes and, and that kinda thing. I think where I finally realized that poetry was the thing that I wanted to, to do, to be a part of. I was in college and I met this girl and, and she was beautiful and I wanted to let her know that, but I was kinda shy. So I wrote her a poem, uh, lips like yours ought to be worshiped. See, I ain't never been too religious, but you can baptize me anytime.

Speaker 1: 02:46 And she ended up marrying me. Poetry works and works and works well. That's a great story. Yeah. Tell us about your regular contributions to NPRs morning edition and you introduced the idea of crowdsourced poetry. What is that exactly? Yeah, Rachel Martin

Speaker 2: 03:04 and I came up with this idea that we can, you know, help Americans through this sort of trying period that we've been in that has proven very stressful, not only for the adults but for the kids. And how do we find our way, you know, to a place of peace, of calm in the midst of a world that may not be so beautiful sometimes. And I posited that poetry can be that bridge that allows us to crossover into becoming more human. And so we thought, well, we'll introduce poetry and we'll not just read poetry or share poetry or talk about the origins of a poem, but we'll sort of, you know, model how a poem can become a center for community. And so this idea of a people in different communities being able to write a poem and then us taking a sections or lines or words from those poems and creating this, this, this community poem as as we call it, or crowdsource poetry. And it's had such a great response all across America.

Speaker 1: 04:04 What did you learn from that experience?

Speaker 2: 04:06 I learned the thing that I've known for a while and most of us have it, that poetry still resonates with us that we don't even know we love it. We've forgotten that poetry has become this sort of stayed in comprehensible thing in our minds. In fourth and fifth grade, third grade, we're reading Shel Silverstein. Yeah. By 11th and 12th grade we're reading Shakespeare and teachers don't understand why kids aren't into it. You can't go from Shel Silverstein to Shakespeare. That's a huge leap. Where is the bridge to get us there? And so what I've learned during this experience at morning edition is that poetry can be that bridge. If you can find that cool, accessible, relatable poetry that makes us feel something.

Speaker 1: 04:50 I'd like to talk about the crossover, which is the book that we're using here at KPBS to get kids into reading. What would they love about this book?

Speaker 2: 04:58 Wow. I think every kid has some relationship to basketball that they are play player. They know somebody who plays it, they watch it, you know? So there, so there's already that connection. And I think that what I tried to do in the crossover is used basketball as a metaphor for our lives. And I think if a kid, you know, hears or reads dribble fake shoot, miss dribble, fake shoot, miss dribble, fake shoot, miss dribble, fake shoot, swish, I think they're going to get it. And that's what I want. I want kids to come away from this book thinking, yeah, I get it. I gotta say yes to life. I got to treasure my family. I got to be a star in my mind and I got to let it shine.

Speaker 1: 05:44 Call me. Alexandra, thank you so much for your time. We loved having you here. Thank you all so much for having me. Kwame Alexander's book, the crossover is KPBS is one book, one San Diego for teens. You can find out more, including information about events@locallibrariesatkpbs.org one books for teens.

Speaker 3: 06:06 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:00 New York times bestselling author and educator, Kwame Alexander has dedicated himself to getting kids excited about reading his book, crossover his. This year's one book, one San Diego selection for teens. KPBS evening edition host Maya Tribole C spoke with Kwame Alexander. Here's that interview. Kwame Alexander. Thank you so much for coming. Thanks for having me. Let's talk about reading. I have a ravenous reader, but I also have another child who forgive the pun and uses every excuse in the book not to read. Right. What advice would you give to a parent who is suffering the same as I am?

Speaker 2: 00:34 Books or amusement parks and sometimes you gotta let kids choose the rides. It's not about getting a kid to read the book. We think they want to read, find the book that's gonna connect with them, find out what about that book is going to make that kid feel engaged, inspired, empowered. My parents, well, my mother got it. My father didn't get it. My father made me read his dissertations, his college dissertations. He made me read books in the dictionary and the encyclopedia. And I had teachers like that and I just think, you know, adults, parents, teachers, librarians, educators, we've got to help kids find those books that are not just going to make them read but make them want to read. And that requires us to know our kids. Do they play basketball? Are they into gaming? Um, do they like flowers? Do they like birds? Do they like animals dogs and find those books that are going to have some of those themes, those topics that are going to make them feel sort of cool

Speaker 1: 01:29 and want to read more to read more. And your book, the crossover, it's part of KPBS is one book for teens and it's a new [inaudible]. It's got a really unique narration style where you use long form poetry. Right. Tell us about how that nuance storytelling draws people in.

Speaker 2: 01:46 Um, I think poetry is rhythmic. It's concise, it's short. And to the point you talk about sort of really heavy things and you can do it in a few words. There's a lot of white space. And so even the most reluctant of readers can say, well, I can get through that. I can make it through that. It's not intimidating to the eye. I think poetry builds confidence. I think it triggers voice. Um, I found poetry. My mother read to me a lot of poetry growing up. Um, it's, it's how I learned how to communicate. And if you think about it, my, it's how most of us learn how to communicate when we're little speaking, listening, um, reading and writing by the lullabies and the nursery rhymes and, and that kinda thing. I think where I finally realized that poetry was the thing that I wanted to, to do, to be a part of. I was in college and I met this girl and, and she was beautiful and I wanted to let her know that, but I was kinda shy. So I wrote her a poem, uh, lips like yours ought to be worshiped. See, I ain't never been too religious, but you can baptize me anytime.

Speaker 1: 02:46 And she ended up marrying me. Poetry works and works and works well. That's a great story. Yeah. Tell us about your regular contributions to NPRs morning edition and you introduced the idea of crowdsourced poetry. What is that exactly? Yeah, Rachel Martin

Speaker 2: 03:04 and I came up with this idea that we can, you know, help Americans through this sort of trying period that we've been in that has proven very stressful, not only for the adults but for the kids. And how do we find our way, you know, to a place of peace, of calm in the midst of a world that may not be so beautiful sometimes. And I posited that poetry can be that bridge that allows us to crossover into becoming more human. And so we thought, well, we'll introduce poetry and we'll not just read poetry or share poetry or talk about the origins of a poem, but we'll sort of, you know, model how a poem can become a center for community. And so this idea of a people in different communities being able to write a poem and then us taking a sections or lines or words from those poems and creating this, this, this community poem as as we call it, or crowdsource poetry. And it's had such a great response all across America.

Speaker 1: 04:04 What did you learn from that experience?

Speaker 2: 04:06 I learned the thing that I've known for a while and most of us have it, that poetry still resonates with us that we don't even know we love it. We've forgotten that poetry has become this sort of stayed in comprehensible thing in our minds. In fourth and fifth grade, third grade, we're reading Shel Silverstein. Yeah. By 11th and 12th grade we're reading Shakespeare and teachers don't understand why kids aren't into it. You can't go from Shel Silverstein to Shakespeare. That's a huge leap. Where is the bridge to get us there? And so what I've learned during this experience at morning edition is that poetry can be that bridge. If you can find that cool, accessible, relatable poetry that makes us feel something.

Speaker 1: 04:50 I'd like to talk about the crossover, which is the book that we're using here at KPBS to get kids into reading. What would they love about this book?

Speaker 2: 04:58 Wow. I think every kid has some relationship to basketball that they are play player. They know somebody who plays it, they watch it, you know? So there, so there's already that connection. And I think that what I tried to do in the crossover is used basketball as a metaphor for our lives. And I think if a kid, you know, hears or reads dribble fake shoot, miss dribble, fake shoot, miss dribble, fake shoot, miss dribble, fake shoot, swish, I think they're going to get it. And that's what I want. I want kids to come away from this book thinking, yeah, I get it. I gotta say yes to life. I got to treasure my family. I got to be a star in my mind and I got to let it shine.

Speaker 1: 05:44 Call me. Alexandra, thank you so much for your time. We loved having you here. Thank you all so much for having me. Kwame Alexander's book, the crossover is KPBS is one book, one San Diego for teens. You can find out more, including information about events@locallibrariesatkpbs.org one books for teens.

Speaker 3: 06:06 [inaudible].

KPBS Midday Edition podcast branding

KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.