Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Those who know me well know that I have a particular affinity toward poetry.  So naturally, I think children should be introduced to poetry at an early age.  Yikes!  I know this is an alienating statement.  Stick with me, now!  Of course, a great precursor to poetry is nursery rhymes, which I'll discuss in length at a later date.  Not only do I think children should have early introduction to poetry, I think they should be exposed to it regularly.  I understand that many claim to be "afraid" of poetry, insisting that poems have mysterious and hidden meanings.  These people read a poem like they walk through a haunted house, timidly shirking away from the questionable corners, fearful that something spooky might jump out at them and, finally, relieved when they reach the end, surmising that it's all summed up as dark blur anyway.  Have you experienced that?  I'm not quite sure how poetry gained such an infamous reputation; although, I do have a few ideas.

I want to REALLY encourage you to rediscover poetry!  It's going to be exciting!  Start reading poetry aloud to your kids.  Join your children in memorizing a poem from time to time (hey, you'll be warding off Alzheimer's too!).  Hear me out on this one: if you expose your children to poetry now, they won't be intimidated by it later on. 

Before you get squeamish, you've all read Sandra Boynton, right?!  Come on . . . you can say Moo Baa La La La in your sleep!  That's poetry!  I don't claim to have exhausted children's' poetry anthologies.  But please allow me to share a few children's books of poetry that we've tried out.  I encourage you to pick a book to try out for yourself!

For the tots:
  • Sandra Boynton books
  • Animal Crackers by Jane Dyer
  • Shirley Hughes Nursery Collection, which includes the five individual titles: Bathwater's Hot, When We Went to the Park, Colors, All Shapes and Sizes, and Noisy.
  • Eloise Wilkin's Poems to Read to the Very Young
  • Eloise Wilkin's A Child's Garden of Verses
  • Golden Book's My Little Book of Poems selected by Rebecca Heller

As the children grow older:
  • I think everyone should own a copy of A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson.  We have several copies floating around our house.  My only suggestion is to find an illustrated copy that you like.
  • Favorite Poems for Children an anthology put out by Barnes & Noble
  • If you can find an old Childcraft volume, look into it!  Childcraft anthologies are treasure troves of poetry!
  • Caroline Kennedy has put together a good and easily accessible anthology called A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children.
  • I really like the collection of Winter Poems selected by Barbara Rogasky and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman.
  • If you can access a volume of Kate Greenaway's work, do check it out!  One of the very few female illustrators of the late Victorian Age (a contemporary of Randolph Caldecott), Greenaway's illustrations remain timeless.  I especially like her illustrated book of Robert Browning's poem The Pied Piper of Hamlin.
  • There's an extensive series of poetry books underneath the common title Poetry for Young People that I highly recommend.  To search, type in "Poetry for Young People" on Amazon's or your local library's database.  Then I would start off with Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Carl Sandburg, Langston Hughes, William Blake, etc.  These books have lovely illustrations, and the poems are well chosen.  They make wonderful gifts for adults and children alike.  I will point out that they're more age appropriate for older elementary children than younger tots.
  • Stories and poems for extremely intelligent children of all ages by Harold Bloom (I don't actually own this volume, but I'd like to.  Harold Bloom is an extremely well respected and knowledgeable literary critic, academic, and writer.)

Readers, weigh in!  Please recommend your favorite poetry books / anthologies for children!

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