Friday, September 22, 2006

Friday Coffeehouse: Poetry

To accompany a hot cup of coffee/tea/cocoa on a chilly autumn afternoon, we've already mentioned the delight we find in reading aloud to our children or playing nice music... having a generally wholesome, quiet time. I wanted to also put a word in for what seems to be a dying practice: reading poetry. I know that it can seem dull and old fashioned to pick up a poetry book and read it to your children when there are so many great stories available with wonderful pictures that you'd much rather go to instead.

But there is something more than aesthetics or nostalgia to children's verses... it can be hugely beneficial from an intellectual standpoint. Kids begin to absorb rhyme and meter and cadence when they hear poetry. Also, they are exposed to alternate ways to construct sentences. Finally, what is especially true in older poetry books, their vocabulary is challenged when they greet new words and thus, patterns of thought in how to see the world. There imaginations begin to soar and they can easily see through metaphors and similes. (I loved when Xavier described the white-plastic covered hay rolls in the fields as "giant marshmallows floating on the grass.")

My four year old loves reading poetry with me. I don't think he understands every word or phrase that comes out of it, but he enjoys the sing-song rythms we discover and can be found repeating refrains to himself when he plays alone sometimes.

There are undoubtedly dozens upon dozens of great children's poetry books available out there, both old and new. But to really get the rich vocabulary, I recommend going back to the older books or at least compilations that include older poems. Things weren't "dumbed down" for kids so much back then as I find they sometimes are today. Keep your eye out for them at thrift stores or garage sales, etc. I recently bought a BEAUTIFULLY illustrated version of Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses at a local booksale. What a delight! Another highly recommended poetry book is Favorite Poems Old and New by Helen Ferris Tibbets as well as Sing Song by Christina Rosetti. This one is actually more basic nursery rhyming than longer poems. All of these compilations include wonderful illustrations which really make the verses come alive.

A few of my favorite quotes on poetry:

The crown of literature is poetry. It is its end and aim. It is the sublimest activity of the human mind. It is the achievement of beauty and delicacy. The writer of prose can only step aside when the poet passes.
~W. Somerset Maugham

Poetry is the language in which man explores his own amazement. ~Christopher Fry

We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.

~Dead Poet's Society

-Ellie: Oak Harbor, WA


one of us :: 2:24 PM :: 2 Comments