Maybe you haven’t heard that April is National Poetry Month, and since April is almost over I thought I’d take a few minutes to talk about some of our favorite poets and poetry related activities. Now, as the mother of 4 and 6 year old boys, we are not really into anything too deep and thought provoking. At this age, I simply can’t expect that they’re going to understand the significance of:
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
by William Carlos Williams
Ok, I’m not going to lie. I don’t really understand the significance of that either… Anyway, at our house we are really into Shel Silverstein, who has published four books of poetry along with some other picture books. Some are actually rather thought provoking (like the Whatifs), but most of them are good old fashioned silly fun. Plenty of bare bums and nose picking to get my boys thinking poetry is pretty cool! Shel Silverstein’s website is really neat and has some games and activities for kids (including poetry writing) and teaching suggestions for parents.
|Love the little “Mom why are you taking my picture?” smirk!
A second favorite is Awful Ogre’s Awful day by Jack Prelutsky. Another book full of appeal to boys, this compilation of poems starts at the beginning of Awful Ogre’s day and continues until bedtime. The poems and illustrations are interesting to my young boys, but the vocabulary used is really quite advanced! Prelutsky has written several other poetry books as well. Their topic matter and vocab make them a good pick for mid to upper elementary aged children.
Nursery rhymes are a great choice for the youngest listeners. Even though the topic matter can be a bit strange (Hush little baby – Mommy will buy you a diamond ring… Really?), research has shown that listening to nursery rhymes can be very helpful for young children
in the midst of developing their language skills. I like this book, by V. Gilbert Beers, which leaves out some of the more violent rhymes, and has cute recurring characters in the illustrations.
In an effort to round out all the silly poetry I’ve been reading with the boys, I picked up a copy of Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses
. Originally published in 1855, this collection of poems obviously has a very different feel than the more modern books I read, but we all still enjoyed it. I had to stop and explain some of the vocabulary used, but many of the topics are universal to childhood regardless of time and place. My boys could totally relate to poems about the wind, or a shadow, or playing imaginary games before bedtime. I read these poems to them during lunch, which I do with books on many different topics because it gives us something to talk about together and it keeps them from driving me crazy with their table manners (or lack there-of). We talked about how Stevenson’s poems were very different than Shel Silverstein’s poems, but when I asked if they liked them my oldest son said, “I like them. They make you think about stuff.”
When you’re reading poetry with your kids, take your time! Feel the beat of the words, and their rhythm. See if your child can say or read the poem with you in a rhythmic way. If you have older kids you can ask questions! Try “How does this poem make you feel?”, or “Do you think the person who wrote this poem was happy or sad when he/she wrote it?”. “What’s your favorite part of this poem?” This isn’t a quiz with right and wrong answers, just a time for you and your child to connect with a piece of writing.
Use the web! This site
has a whole slew of games, writing, and speaking activities that would be great for elementary age children!
Rhyme, rhyme, all the time. Yes, I know that not all poetry rhymes, but rhyming is still an integral part of developing literacy. We like to practice rhyming in the car. There’s just something about a captive audience… Lots of great ideas here
for rhyming around home, and here
for rhyming in the car.
Happy poetry month, everyone! Don’t forget to rhyme! It’s important – so make time!