Every summer, I spend a few weeks planning everything we’re going to cover during the upcoming school year. Call me crazy, but I love those weeks of planning and researching and ordering books. I figure out all the historical time periods and people we’re going to study, choose a focus for science lessons, settle on a math curriculum, plan writing practice…all the core subjects.
And then it’s time to add in the fun stuff–subjects that aren’t usually given priority because they’re not considered as important. Things like literature, Shakespeare, art, and poetry. This is my favorite part of planning because, not only are these subjects vitally important to study, they’re also fun! In a Charlotte Mason education, these subjects are valued just as highly as core subjects because they expose our kids to rich, beautiful language and timeless works of art. They give our kids a chance to see greatness.
While all these “extras” are wonderful, today I want to focus on sharing poetry with your children. With all the subjects you have to cover, do you really need to add poetry to the list? Is it important enough to take up valuable school time each week? Does it provide any real benefits?
Experts say YES!
Hearing the meter and rhyme of poems in the early years helps create phonological awareness and can lay the foundation for literacy. Poetry exposes kids to language they might not otherwise hear, expanding both their vocabulary and their understanding of the world. And well-written poetry can awaken the imagination and speak to the soul like nothing else.
So how do you go about sharing poetry with your kids? The good news is that it’s ridiculously simple. Just read it! No need to analyze it or search for hidden meaning. Simply reading poems that your kids can enjoy is all it takes. You can read a poem a day, study a certain poet’s work for several weeks, or institute weekly poetry teatime.
We’ve tried all these options and my kids enjoy poetry teatime the most. (I’m sure it has nothing to do with the apple cider, hot chocolate, or treats we enjoy with our poetry 😉 ) It started as a nice way to end our week on Friday, but now my kids love it so much they ask for teatime more often. All we do is pull out some poetry books and read whatever poems we’re in the mood for. I try to include something new along with the old favorites. I’ve also recently started having my kids recite something they’ve memorized each time. This can be Scripture, poetry, or stories in German (the language they’re learning). That way they’re learning to speak in front of people in a way that isn’t too intimidating.
Feeling inspired but not sure where to start? I’ve compiled a list of some great poets and books that are perfect for preschool and elementary-aged kids. Here are some of our favorites.
- A Child’s Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson
- His poems are fun for even really young kids. Most of them are about happy aspects of childhood so they’re relatable and easy to understand.
- Most are relatively short, so they’re great ones to memorize
- Some favorites by Stevenson include The Swing, A Good Play, and Whole Duty of Children.
- Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein
- By far my kids’ favorite–all of his poems are funny and a little ridiculous.
- Great ones to read include Hungry Mungry, Peanut Butter Sandwich, and Sick, but really the whole book is wonderfully fun.
- Shel Silverstein has a few other books of poetry as well if you just can’t get enough of his work.
- Lewis Carroll, edited by Edward Mendelson (from the Poetry for Young People series)
- His poems are full of nonsense and made-up words, which makes them especially fun.
- They’re better suited for elementary ages–the language and length of the poems might be a little difficult for really young kids.
- This book (and the whole Poetry for Young People series) is wonderful because it gives some interesting information about the author and his life and also gives definitions for some of the more difficult words (including the words Carroll made up!)
- Favorites include Matilda Jane, Father William, and especially Brother and Sister (which my kids happily memorized together).
- Just So Stories, by Rudyard Kipling
- This book is mainly short stories, but there is a poem that goes along with each story.
- Kipling also wrote many other poems that aren’t specifically for children but some are still great to share with older kids.
- Great poems by Kipling include If and How the Camel Got His Hump.
Hopefully this gives you a starting place for beginning to share the beauty of poetry with your children. Other great poets to study include A.A. Milne, Emily Dickinson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Walt Whitman…there are so many great writers and resources out there. Whether you’re looking for something that makes you and your kids laugh or something that speaks to your heart, there’s plenty of beautiful poetry out there for everyone. Share some of your favorites with us!