I never really liked poetry much. Well, I used to when I was little. My third grade teacher had us make a poetry notebook, copying and illustrating poems onto notebook paper in a folder. We could choose the poems ourselves, and I filled mine with haiku and Shel Silverstein and “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (I got extra credit for that one it was so long!). It was great fun. Then we got to the part of school when teachers felt we must dissect poems, and both the poem and I were worse for the wear on the other side.
Fast forward to me being the primary teacher of my own small children. Imagine my delight when I read Charlotte Mason’s method of teaching poetry: she would simply read the poem to the child and let them enjoy. Wow. I could do that. I usually read poetry during snack time. Not every day, sometimes not even every week. It’s a very casual time of the day, and so a very relaxed time and way to introduce poetry. I often get special requests of poems I’ve read before and my children remember, and I try to honor those. I keep one of the poetry books on my shelf of cookbooks in the dining room, next to the children’s illustrated Bible we read at breakfast. It reminds me that I am nourishing their spirit and mind and heart while I am nourishing their bodies. If we’ve had a late night and there’s not time for an entire chapter of whatever book my husband is reading to our children before bed, he will often allow them each to choose a poem and he will read those out loud before bed.
Here are some of our favorite books:
- Favorite Poems Old and New: Selected For Boys and Girls–A large anthology with everyone from Robert Louis Stevenson to Emily Dickinson to many I’d never heard of but wished I’d read when I was younger. Sometimes I flip to a relevant topic, like the weather or the season. Sometimes I just open it randomly and see what we can find.
- Anything by Shel Silverstein–a little like the Roald Dahl of poetry, he is funny and thinks like a kid. Sometimes a few of the poems are too dark for my taste; use your own judgement. His poems are favorites of my children to memorize-voluntarily by the way.
- The World of Christopher Robin by A. A. Milne. My volume has both When we were very young and Now we are Six and is illustrated by E.H. Shepard, who illustrated all the Pooh books. My friend has these on tape by Peter Dennis, who has also read all the Pooh books on tape and is fabulous. The real Christopher Robin Milne has said Peter Dennis’ readings of his fathers’ works are the best, and I agree.
- Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost & illustrated by Susan Jeffers. I love this book and so do my children. The pictures are luminous and fun. Beautiful.
I hope you’ll try to read poetry with your kids. It’s not as intimidating as it sounds, and you might enjoy it yourself.
By the way, if you are interested in buying any of these, you can find them all here. In the interest of full disclosure, if you do make a purchase through this link, I get a wee bit of credit to use to buy more books for my children, and I will truly be grateful. If you only want to use it as your shopping list and shop else-where, I will not be offended. I just want to share my finds with you, wherever you choose to buy (or borrow) them!