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Josie Takes the Road to Rhyming Success


A devotion to poetry and an admiration of the splendour of the Dales has been the inspiration for a retired business studies teacher to bring the wonders of rhyme and metre to children and adults alike.

Josie Whitehead from Ilkley, has been celebrating the publication of 344 of her 830 poems in a special five-book collection, aimed largely at children. 


The collection, which draws on the natural beauty of Wharfedale and beyond, among other inspirations, is supported by a website which is proving popular with youngsters and adults alike. 


Josie says a love of words and an appreciation of the often overlooked metre and rhythm within poetry has been uppermost in her works.   


She says:  “I only became a poet rather by accident in very recent years - in fact I have mainly only written most of my poems in the last five years encouraged initially by children in my local primary school.


“I volunteered, as many retired people do, to go into the school and help the children by listening to them reading one hour a week.  I mentioned that I had written a few poems for children and was asked to bring one in the following week. 


“I was not an expert poet myself, but had been inspired by writers such as Lewis Carroll and Robert Louis Stevenson when I was a child enjoying the rhyme, rhythm and stories within the poems.  The children also enjoyed these ingredients in poetry.


“When asked to read my poem to the children, I thought that perhaps they might think my work a little old-fashioned  - and six year old children are honest - but to my amazement they loved it.


“The first poem I read was about an invisible child (only visible to children), with red hair and a green face, whose name is Mickledy-Me.  They enjoyed it so much that I have written four sequels to Mickledy-Me.  The children then asked me to bring in more and more poems, often requesting their favourite subjects.”


 Apart from story poems, Josie has written some about the Dales, inspired greatly by their natural beauty and the wildlife within.


 She adds: “I don’t have to go far to find it, for this beauty and the wildlife that lives here spills into my garden on a daily basis” she says. 


A set of new Ebooks will soon be released through a selection of online retailers and shops and via Josie’s website.  This will allow readers to read the poetry on Ebook readers and on school screens.


She says: “The power of the internet means that the poems have been going into school classrooms all over the world in the last couple of years to thousands of schools worldwide.   


“The children were insistent that I make a website, so that they could read the poems at home with parents and siblings, and asked that I put voice recordings with them to help them with reading. 


“Rhyming poetry helps children develop phonemic awareness, a key literacy tool for both English speaking children and for those who are learning English as a second language.


“I never really thought far into the future, but when one little boy asked each year if he could recite the same poem (Mickledy-Me) at the Children’s Corner of the Ilkley Literature Festival, and told me he loved all of the Mickledy-Me poems so much that he would still be reciting them to his children and grandchildren long after I am no longer here, I was very moved for I didn’t expect to be remembered as I remembered my favourite poets.”


Josie says that it is important not just to feed children on “giggle poetry” but to stretch their imaginations and vocabularies and children have told her how they like more serious poems. 


The beauty of the Middleton Woods at bluebell time is captured in “Ode to the Bluebells”, a Victorian ballad; the fun of “The Otley Victorian Day” swings through the day with images of the festive fun; Skipton and its bustling market is captured in “Skipton’s January Sales” and the story of how the early monks put Bolton Abbey on the map is featured in “The Legend of Bolton Abbey. 

Also featured are the peace and beauty of Addingham’s churchyard, The Fairies of Janet’s Foss (Malham) and Josie’s hometown of Ilkley.


She has recently combined her writing talents with those of Jonathan Jarzenbowski, who, having completed a four year animation degree course at Bradford University, has gone into partnership with her. 


Bradford University is supporting them both well with advice and business acumen. 


Various lecturers from within the university in the Skillset Media Academy are also assisting them to build a successful creative business in West Yorkshire which will bring both enjoyment to the children, help to teachers and work for other young talented people in our area.


Her website is to be enlarged and animated film added, together with games to help children both with the writing of poetry and with English.




·        Josie’s website can be found by googling   ‘Josie’s Poems’ or by going to http://www.josiespoems.webeden.co.uk/

·        She is also available on Skype to read poems in class, and has just returned from reading visits to Texas and Istanbul.


Example Poem:


 The Road I’ll Take…….


There’s a road that leads to a packed city street;

    Whilst another leads up to the moor.

There are traffic fumed streets with their bustle and noise

    Or a place that’s away from its roar.



It’s here that the wind breathes cool breath on your face;

    And the tarn’s ripples dance on the breeze,

Where there’s wildlife, flowers and sweet tasting fruit,

    And where soft breezes blow through the trees.





Amongst grasses and rushes, and soft cotton grass,

    And under a crystal clear sky,

Birds sing their songs, build their nests, rear their young,

    And it’s here where the butterflies fly.


It’s here where the waterfalls drop from their heights,

    To flow through their soft peaty beds,

Where the chaffinch and nuthatch, the blackbird and thrush,

    Throw out their song overhead.


In summer the swallows and swifts swoop and dive,

    With the curlew and red grouse above,

It’s here, far away from the packed city streets,

    You can talk about life or of love.


The August sun shines on the blue heathered moors,

    In September they turn into gold,

But there’s beauty in winter, with ice and with snow,

    Yes, even when blustery winds blow.


There’s a road that leads on to the packed city street,

    And another leads up to the moor.

Take that road to the city if that’s what you like,

    But I know where I’m going, for sure.