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Reading Poetry with Children

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Make poetry fun and exciting for kids

Reading poetry with kids can be a joyful experience, but first you have to get your littles interested. It can be hard, especially since we mamas often cringe at the thought of it. 

Poetry is no longer as popular a form of writing as it once was.   Hundreds of years ago, when not only were books inaccessible but literacy was a skill for only the wealthy (and predominantly male), it was easier to remember historical and other facts if they were set to rhythm and/or rhyme.  People passed down songs, poems, chants, riddles, and other verse as a way to keep their histories intact and their culture united.

Flash forward a few hundred years to when books and literacy became common and reading was the most popular pastime of the age.  Good verse became a competition (luckily for us) and the 19th and early 20th century produced some of the most profound poets in history.  These brilliant men and women  language as a tool to express emotion that might not be polite to express in society, and they spurred each other to write more and to hone a craft that has since fallen out of favor.

I just don’t get why it’s done so.

Because poetry has become a thing we briefly study in school and then often leave behind, it has become harder to understand.  Using figurative language?  Understanding meter?  Carefully choosing alliteration?  Not things the average mama worries about too much in the face of All The Other Things.

But you can make poetry fun for your littles and instill in them a love that will last their lifetimes, not just until they skate past it for the last time in college.  What are the best ways to do that?
Getting kids excited about poetry is easy with the right books

How to make poetry appealing to kids

Add visual beauty

Beautiful illustrations can get your kids excited about poetry

One of the easiest ways to do this is to find a beautifully illustrated book of poems.  My copy of Dean’s Mother Goose Book of Rhymes, illustrated by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone, has captured my imagination since I was 6 years old.  The pictures in this book are the kind that a little can stare at for hours. I bought a new copy a few years ago and captivated my boys with it.  There are so books out there that combine poetry for children with  Coupling such illustrations with poetry practically guarantees a child’s interest.

Add laughter

Laughter can get your kids excited about poetry

Can you say Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky?  Both of these geniuses have written several books of poetry for kids that will leave your littles in stitches.

I still remember the very first time I ever heard of A Light in the Attic.  I was 8.  I now own 2 copies.  Because it struck me as so amazing that someone would write a book of poems just for kids and that poetry could be funny.  And cooler than cool, Amazon now has a Special Edition that has 12 new poems in it!  So yeah yeah, I might have to own a 3rd.

My boys are huge fans of Prelutsky’s The New Kid on the Block.  Prelutsky’s poems are especially hilarious for boys because they have that boy humor in them–you know, the kind mamas hope they don’t exhibit in public.  Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t all like that.  But there’s enough.  There’s enough.

And a spoonful of laughter helps the poetry go down.  In the most delightful way.

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Add history

Adding history can get your kids excited about poetry

I lucked into my 1935 copy of Sung Under the Silver Umbrella at a yard sale for a quarter.  This book is filled with poems for children by some of the greats–Christina Rossetti, Edward Lear, R.L. Stevenson, and Edna St. Vincent Millay, to name a few.   Our Children’s Own Longfellow is from 1908.  The boys love to read from these books and think about all the people who may have read them before.  Plus, you know that great smell an old book has?  Poetry.

Add a story

Reading poetry within a story can make it more exciting for kids

Who better to make you littles fall in love with poetry than Lewis Carroll?  When a poem is inserted into a story as wonderful as Alice in Wonderland, suddenly your littles are wanting very much to read and understand it.  We have a copy of The Jabberwocky on our classroom wall because it is one of our all-time favorites.  Another incredible author who inserted songs and poetry into his work is (and it won’t surprise you that I would mention him) JRR Tolkien.  The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy are packed with amazing poems that serve the same purposes for the inhabitants of Middle Earth as our early poetry did for us here in our world.

Notice I didn’t say the Real World.  Who’s to say Middle Earth isn’t real?

Add a tea party

Holding a poetry tea time can get your kids excited about poetry

One of my favorite trends on the interweb right now is the poetry tea time.  We even recently purchased a matching tea set to make ours more authentic.  Serve a yummy, cozy tea, cuddle up with your kiddos, and read some good poetry.  It doesn’t have to be deep stuff.  Mother Goose, Silverstein or Prelutsky (or both!), a little Robert Louis Stevenson or some Christina Rosetti–you can fun and keep it simple.  Plus, it’s a great excuse to spend some quiet time with your kids.

However you do it, now is the time to get your littles excited about poetry.  It gives you a chance to create a lifelong love that they will always be grateful for and memories for them to take with them wherever they go.

Love wins,

KT

P.S. If you didn’t take the survey, please scroll back up and answer those 5 quick questions.  I really want to know how you feel about poetry.

Want more ideas for poetry with kids?  Check out:

A 3-step process for teaching littles to read poetry using song lyrics

How to Read Poetry with Your Kids

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KT Brison

KT Brison is a former children’s librarian and educator who gave all that up for the most important job in her life—homeschooling her boys.Though she loves the outdoors and rambling around her farm, she can usually be found with her nose in a book. Any book. As long as it has words.
KT Brison
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About KT Brison

KT Brison is a former children’s librarian and educator who gave all that up for the most important job in her life—homeschooling her boys. Though she loves the outdoors and rambling around her farm, she can usually be found with her nose in a book. Any book. As long as it has words.
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14 Comments

  1. I am searching for the title of the book that has the millions of tiny rain drops poem in it.

    Do you by chance know the title and author?

    Thank you so much
    Heather Hagerman

  2. Happy Poetry Month!!
    You have some great picks here. 🙂 When I homeschooled, poetry was one of the funnest units to teach. We had a poetry night at the end of our unit and the kids loved it. 🙂
    Thank you so much for sharing with us at #MMBH. PINNED. 🙂

  3. These are great recommendations! I’m so lucky that even though I personally have never enjoyed much poetry, my kids love it and love to write it as well! Thanks so much for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com!
    Tina
    Tina at Mommynificent recently posted…Passover Shopping Spree – Booknificent Thursday Link-Up Party #193My Profile

  4. YES!! I couldn’t agree more – as a young child I adored poetry, until school just killed that love. For years I was convinced that I hated poetry, that it was just for certain people, that I obviously wasn’t smart enough for poetry because I didn’t “get” it the way my teachers said I should. Looking back it’s such a terrible shame, and I’ve only recently started exploring poetry again, so many years later! Poetry should be about personal experiences and interpretations, and emotions and ideas – poetry is for everyone, and should be celebrated, not dissected in stuffy classrooms!!

    • You should have written this post for me, Jane! I couldn’t agree more. I’m lucky that my father had a poet’s soul and passed it on to me so school didn’t stand a chance of wiping that out. Whew! lol

  5. We love Shel Silverstein. My boys enjoy a god funny poem. Thanks for sharing with us at Love to Learn; pinned.
    Mother of 3 recently posted…Dirt Cake CupcakesMy Profile

  6. I always found Poetry fun when I was a child but I guess that’s not always the case so glad you shared this info! Thanks! #HomeMattersParty
    Jeannee

    • Me too, Jeannee. But I know plenty of kids who don’t enjoy it so much, unfortunately. I’ve had to use a lot of these ideas in both libraries and the school system to engage students. My boys never had much choice in my homeschool. lol I started them out immediately with poetry!

  7. I love Shel Siverstein! My Little Man is almost 7 months and I can’t wait to introduce him to poetry.

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