Friday, January 8, 2010

Good Reads: Our Children's Poetry List Winter 2009

I grew up with poetry: my grandfather quoting it; my mother writing her own; memorizing it in school; a 4th grade teacher reading us "The Cremation of Sam McGee" for good behavior. But it wasn't until I started teaching poetry to AP students and then adults that I grew to love it. It wasn't just that I was forced to learn it and help others understand it, that helped, but more because I was then able to see poetry's ability to speak to so many different human experiences in such a simple yet profound ways.

A turn of phrase, an apt metaphor, a broken rhythm...brought forth rich discussion in class and food for thought long after the class was over. So often my own experiences are better understood in the light of poetry and I've started to enjoy writing in lines (here and here) rather than straight prose.

So reading poetry with my children is also becoming a part of our day. We've started reading poetry right before nap time. It calms them down but is short enough, they always are asking for more.

Here are the three anthologies we're reading right now:

The Green Tiger's Illustrated Mother Goose. We spend time pouring over the beautiful illustrations from over 100 artists dating from the 1880s to the 1940s in this wonderful edition I found at a used bookstore. It also maintains the older language so its syntax and vocabulary are much more interesting.

It's so easy to think of Mother Goose only for the very young but Nursery Rhymes build an ear for language and rhyme, increase musical and rhythmic awareness, aid memory, build phonemic awareness and even develop math skills. Many of the poems are just fun but others teach moral lessons.

Although the older editions are more complex, I have found that since the children already know the nursery rhymes so well that the complexity helps them learn more about the art of reading poetry.

The Complete Book of Flower Fairies by Cecily Barker

The children are smitten with this beautiful anthology of fairies of the trees and flowers. Each poem has an enchanting illustration of the fairy and a realistic depiction of the flower, leaf, or fruit. The poems are sweet, humorous, and thought-provoking, containing elements which actually teach the children a bit about the flower or tree. We're working our way through the Alphabet Fairies (which you could buy separately as its own book). The poems have led to imaginative play, tree and flower identification, and a deeper appreciation of nature. When an acorn drops they wonder if it is a fairy; they are quiet around Willow Trees, hoping to gain a glimpse; when our yard was filled with clover, they spent a good deal of time looking for the clover fairy! The book has a companion CD of the poems put to music and a wonderful coloring book. I hope to post more about our love of fairies soon!

The Ambleside Collection of Poetry. An online collection of over 200 classic poems for children arranged by month and season. I've printed and placed them in a binder. I also print a few to place on our seasonal bulletin board that has the children's art work and seasonal pictures. I pick and choose from the collection a few days a week. If the poem is too difficult for the children I encourage them just to sit back and enjoy the sounds of the words rolling together and ask what they heard, rather than forcing it.

Hope you're inspired to read poetry! Love to hear of other ways you've introduced poetry to your children and your favorite collections!

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