Thursday, July 1, 2010

Poetry for Children

As a former middle and high school English teacher, I know that poetry is often the reading element that gives people the most trouble. It doesn't need to be this way. In fact, young children LOVE poetry! Get over your own mental block against poetry and check out some poetry to read to those wee ones at home.

(Did you know that your library's children's section probably has a section just for poetry? There are picture books that illustrate famous children's poems as well as anthologies of poetry just for children's ears. Ask your librarian for help in locating these gems. Your library will have many of the titles below, plus lots more with terrific titles like Sing a Song of Popcorn! and many, many others. Get in the habit of checking out a poetry book each time you visit the library.)

Here are some recommendations:

For infants/toddlers/preschoolers:

Any well-illustrated Mother Goose collection
  • the Dillons (Mother Goose: Numbers on the Loose)
  • My Very First Mother Goose by Iona Opie and Rosemary Wells
  • Tomie DePaola's Mother Goose

Individual (Famous) Poems in Picture Book Form (if you sing these, your child will beg for more!)
  • Itsy Bitsy Spider and others by Rosemary Wells
  • Mary Had a Little Lamb and others by Tomie DePaola
  • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star illus by Michael Hague
  • Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening illus by Susan Jeffers

For Preschoolers/Kindergardners (younger kids will enjoy the rhymes/rhythms but may not appreciate the humor or subject matter as much)

  • Sunflakes compiled by Lilian Moore (contemporary poems by well known children's authors--delightful)
  • Shel Silverstein's works
  • The Random House Book of Poetry for Children (illus by Arnold Lobel--creator of the Frog and Toad books)
  • The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children's Poems compiled by Donald Hall
  • A Child's Treasury of Poems compiled by Mark Daniel (really nice book that's not in print anymore--look for it, though! It was published in the 80's I think.... These are poems for children by older authors--Robert Louis Stephenson, Christina Rosetti, Tennyson, etc. and accompanied by famous artwork)
  • A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stephenson (lots of delightfully illustrated versions out there!)

Some poetry read aloud tips when reading to children:
  • Read with EXPRESSION
  • Vary your pace: most poems can be read slowly to good effect; speed up when you feel it will enhance the mood
  • Read 5 or 6 at a time and save the rest of the book for later (or just 1 or 2 at a time); Mother Goose Numbers on the Loose may be an exception--my children love the entire thing at one sitting
  • Look for poems about things that your children can relate to: shadows, spaghetti, the sun, getting their feet wet, the ocean, etc. Most anthologies are divided up by topics. As you get more familiar, you'll remember the rainy day section if it rains and so forth
  • Reread them over and over! Young children memorize quite easily and will soon be quoting nursery rhymes and "My Shadow" effortlessly. They may even pop out a convincing rendition of "Sick" if they don't want to go to school....

Happy Poetry Reading!