High Variance

Getting Kids Hooked on Poetry #IMWAYR

I still remember in third grade when my grandmother got me my first book of poetry. I looked at it suspiciously and cast it aside. I don’t think I opened it more than a couple times and I have no idea what happened to it. Much later (as a pretentious young adult), I started taking poetry as seriously as song lyrics, and slowly built up a real appreciation for it. But even after all these years, it still feels a little like a foreign language.

My theory has always been that I would be fluent in poetry if only it had been a regular part of my life when I was little. In our household we’re testing that theory with the girls by mixing a fair bit of poetry in with our usual large helpings of stories and nature books. So far, it’s going well–The girls think of poems as a completely normal form of expression. I think the key is reading widely, but making sure to hit subjects that the girls already enjoy. Here are some of our favorite collections:

  • Sharing the Seasons: A Book of Poems (collected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by David Diaz) These vivid poems are clever and really capture the variety of life across the seasons. This collection is probably the house favorite and R loves to recite this spring poem:

“Don’t You Dare” by Beverly McLoughland

Stop! cried Robin,
Don’t you dare begin it
Another tweety rhyme
With a redbreast in it.

Another cheery verse
With a cherry tree,
Don’t you dare
Write another spring poem about me!

Take your pad and pencil
To the reedy bog
When you feel a poem coming–
Think Frog.

  • The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies (written and illustrated by Cicely Mary Barker) This collection is incredible and I don’t say that lightly. Ms. Barker is most known for her beautifully detailed drawings, but I think the accompanying poems are just as wonderful. If the flower grows in England, Ms. Barker has almost certainly written about its fairies.

“The Dandelion Fairy” by Cicely Mary Barker

Here’s the Dandelion’s rhyme:
See my leaves with tooth-like edges;
Blow my clocks to tell the time;
See me flaunting by the hedges,
In the meadow, in the lane,
Gay and naughty in the garden;
Pull me up-I grow again,
Asking neither leave nor pardon.
Sillies, what are you about
With your spades and hoes of iron?
You can never drive me out-
Me, the dauntless Dandelion!

  • A Child’s Book of Poems (collected and illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa) I’ve been a huge fan of Mr. Fujikawa’s pen and ink drawings since I came across Oh, What a Busy Day. This collection is full of “serious” poetry by the likes of Wordsworth, Blake, Coleridge and Tennyson as well as plenty of silly rhymes by the prolific Anonymous.

“Rain in Summer” by Henry Wadworth Longfellow

How beautiful is the rain!
After the dust and heat,
In the broad and fiery street,
In the narrow lane,
How beautiful is the rain!
How it clatters along the roofs,
Like the tram of hoofs!

How it gushes and struggles out
From the throat of the overflowing spout!
Across the windowpane
It pours and pours;
And swift and wide,
With a muddy tide,
Like a river down the gutter roars
The rain, the welcome rain!

  • Wonton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku (written by Lee Wardlaw, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin) I’ve been meaning to write about the best cat books for cat lovers, and this book would definitely make that list too. It follows a cat on his journey from the shelter to a new home. And as the title says, the author really does tell the story as a series of perfect haiku.

“The New Place”

Deep, dark bed cave. Me?
Hiding? I’m no scaredy cat!
I like dust bunnies!

“Here, kitty, kitty.”
Ha. I’ll stay put till I know:
Are they friend…or foe?

Yawn. String-on-a-stick.
Fine. I’ll come out and chase it
to make you happy.

I’m always looking for more kid-appropriate (and kid-accessible) poetry so please share your favorites below!

Originally hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers host kidlit versions of It’s Monday! What are You Reading? All three sites are great places to find new books for yourself and your kids.