Now I am by no means a poetry expert. This month has been about baby steps for both the kids and me. In fact, I did not particularly like the poetry lessons in school. The word poetry leaves me trembling and feeling a little intimidated. But, that's mostly because in school I was required to write verses as instructed and work to interpret meaning in poetry. (Read J. Patrick Lewis' "Can Children’s Poetry Matter?" for more on this topic.) My perspective completely changed when I started reading poetry for my own personal entertainment. Likewise, young children should be able to freely choose and seek out poetry, much like they would any other form of entertainment.
What poetry books do you have in your home? If you want your children to immerse themselves in the verses they must first have access to poems. Before my children were born, I purchased a volume of Mother Goose rhymes. One of the best purchases I've ever made. I still sing nursery rhymes with them daily. But, there's a whole lot more out there...volumes and volumes just waiting to be discovered by little hands. Today, as part of the Savvy Verse & Wit National Poetry Month Blog Tour, I'm writing about a few read aloud poetry books for young children we discovered and, in some cases, eventually purchased for our home library.
Find poetry in ANTHOLOGIES
We started out our poetry month with a superb collection of poems -- Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young by Jack Prelutsky. The first poet to serve as the U.S. Children's Poet Laureate (2006-2008), Prelutsky is a super star in the world of children's poetry. His anthology is packed with over 200 poems that were specifically selected to appeal to the youngest children, baby to age six. Sun up to sun down, the poems in the book cover a variety of child-friendly topics ready to spark the imagination -- the seasons, animals, imaginary creatures, outdoor exploration and personal feelings. Some are familiar (like "I See The Moon") but many are not and some are just plain silly. Nearly every poem is accompanied by one of Marc Brown's fun illustrations. What I really like about the book is that it's a perfect launch pad for exploring the children's poetry world. With so many poets featured, it's like a who's who book of kid friendly poets. My daughter's favorite poems so far (we haven't read them all) include, "When All the World's Asleep" by Anita E. Posey and "Birthdays" by Mary Ann Hoberman.
(A couple other anthologies we enjoyed: Here's A Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry by Jane Yolen, Andrew Fusek Peters; illustrated by Polly Dunbar and Sing a Song of Popcorn : Every Child's Book of Poems by Beatrice Schenk De Regniers et al.)
"If birthdays happened once a week
Instead of once a year,
Think of all the gifts you'd get
And all the songs you'd hear..."
Find poetry in PICTURE BOOKS
Speaking of Mary Ann Hoberman, she's the current Children's Poet Laureate. She calls herself the Pied Piper for children's poetry. While she has written some awesome poetry books (For example: The Llama Who Had No Pajama : 100 favorite poems), she's also a good example of an author that has an extraordinary talent for writing lyrical picture books. That's right, don't only canvas the nonfiction shelves...many picture books contain poetic elements. One such book my daughter picks up again and again is All Kinds of Families! Through rhyming verse, Hoberman gives examples of all sorts of families and groupings and get kids thinking about families around them. Thimbles, toes, seashells and toothbrushes over the sink all are considered families, just like families of people. Impressively illustrated by Marc Boutavant in a retro and unique sort of way, the pictures are as equally enchanting as the text. There's a lot to think about while reading this book, and it also lends itself to discussions about family trees, birth, and what makes a family. This book has left its spot among the family of books on our shelf multiple times!
Or alphabet letters or notes in the scale
The colors in rainbows, the words in a language
The keys on a piano or stamps in the mail"
- All Kinds of Families by Mary Ann Hoberman
Search out BOOKS BY INDIVIDUAL AUTHORS
If you start reading enough poetry with your children, you'll quickly amass a list of children's poem writers and start a search for their books -- J. Patrick Lewis, Karla Kuskin, Shel Silverstein, Bobbi Katz, to name a few. When you find a writer with a certain style you love, it's fun to delve into a collection of their work. We recently received a review copy of The Wonder Book, a "treasury of poems, tongue-twisters, silly stories and other kinds of wordplay" by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. We're big fans of Rosenthal's picture books so we had high hopes for this oddball collection of wonder and it surpassed our expectations. Paul Schmid illustrated the book in a similar manner to Shel Silverstein's works, using sketchy line drawings. There's a lot to peruse in this book and here are some of our picks:
"Stop That! Be Quiet! Please Sit Still" captures the energy of a young child and the desperate plea of parents. The ending surprises.
"A Man, a Plan, a Canal...Palindromes" consists of several creative palindromes. Our favorite? "The mall llama!"
"Half Birthday" made us think that we should all celebrate our half birthdays...or then again maybe not.
And our very favorite - "The Less Famous Friends of Mary Mack" - You know Mary Mack, the girl in black? Apparently she has friends in yellow, blue, red, white and pink.
All dressed in pink pink pink
Scrubbed her feet feet feet
In the sink sink sink"
The book is all about silliness and is such fun to read aloud to preschoolers on up or browse in bits by yourself. Even the index is hilarious. I wonder why it has to end so quickly and wish it was longer!
Other resources and read aloud poetry booklists:
A Treasury of Read-Alouds: Poetry for Children by Jim Trelease
Judy Freeman's 150 Favorite Poetry Books for Children
Tips For Reading with the Very Young by Jack Prelutsky [pdf]
Sylvia Vardell's blog - Poetry for Children
Elaine Magliaro's blog - Wild Rose Reader
POET-TREE for Arbor Day
Back in the beginning of April, my preschool daughter decided it might be fun to create her own "My Poetry Book." Nearly every weekday this month, she has selected a poem, copied and pasted it into her book and drawn a corresponding illustration. Here's her newest entry, in time for National Arbor Day today. She made a "POET-TREE" by cutting the stanzas of a poem into leaf shapes and attaching them to a tree. (Idea inspired by Fancy Nancy: Poet Extraordinaire!) The tree poem she picked is "Open House" by Aileen Fisher.
Please share your favorite read aloud poetry books with us...we're always open to suggestions! And be sure to check out the other posts in this month's Poetry Blog Tour (and vote for your favorite post) or join in the fun by participating in today's Poetry Friday or today's Feed Me Books Friday.
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