During these uneasy times, it might be refreshing to introduce poetry to our family schedule. While the very mention of poetry might remind you of sitting in a high school classroom debating Emily Dickinson’s point, poetry does not have to be a formal affair. In fact, casual poetry readings are a popular activity amongst homeschooling families. It can look like a tea party, like a cuddle time on the couch, or even a lazy after-swimming, air-drying on a towel kind of time. Studies even show that to improve our mental health, we should all be reading more poetry. So grab your favorite beverage, and your kids, get comfy and enjoy these poetry recommendations!
Poetry for Preschoolers:
Children from birth to age 5 are acquiring a lot of language at fast rates. Not only this, but children at this age love to mimic funny sounds they hear. Why not take advantage of this and read poetry that is a delight to the ear? Contrary to popular belief, poetry does not have to rhyme, and it does not have to be long. The best poems for children this age are often silly, funny, and potty humor. An example of this is Shel Silverstein’s poem, “Snowball.”
I made myself a snowball
As perfect as could be.
I thought I’d keep it as a pet
And let it sleep with me.
I made it some pajamas
And a pillow for its head.
Then last night it ran away,
But first it wet the bed.
Recommended poetry for this age group:
-Mother Goose Ryhmes
-Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr
– When we were very young by A.A.Milne
Poetry for age 5-8
Do you remember with delight sitting at your desk in school while the teacher read The Jaberwoky by Lewis Carroll. Poetry for these early readers often sparks creativity and wonder at the world. How fun to sit out under the hot Florida sun and read this story while imagining what it must be like to come face to face with a monster, and defeat it!
Recommended poetry for this age group:
-Now we are six A.A. Milne
-The Dentist and the Crocodile by Dr Seuss
-Poems, Poemas by Alma Flor Ada
Poetry for age 9-12
Have your adventurous children breezed through Harry Potter? Are they sick of marvel comics? Children in this age group will love Epic Poetry. Introduce them to the oldest poem in the world: the Persian “Epic of Gilgamesh” a mix of Noah’s Ark and Superman. King Gilgamesh saves his world from evil kings, floods and demons. If your child is not an adventurer or does not yet enjoy long stories, try Japanese Haiku. Short, three-lined poems of 17 syllables, they often contain epic emotions in miniscule word counts. First popularized by Basho, now there are thousands of books of haiku available in bookstores across the world.
Other works of poetry for this age group are:
-Beaowulf translated by Frances Grummere
-The Essence of Modern Haiku: 300 Poems by Seishi Yamaguchi
-Remember by Joy Harjo
Poetry for the Family
The first book of poetry published in the United States was the Bay Psalm Book in 1640. It is amazing to think that such a book of poetry is something that has united families of our country for the past 380 years. As one of the most translated works of poetry in the world, it is amazing to think of all the other families who have read this collection. As a work, it crosses regions, religions, and relationships, and comes to the reader with images of comfort and hope. That is something that all families can appreciate during this time when we are asked to be together apart. Whether it be Revolutionary New Englanders reading no. 117 in English, or Texans in 1836 reading Psalm 119 in Spanish, or Koreans in 1924 reading psalm number 136, it is heartwarming to think: we are not alone when we read this collection.
Other works of poetry suitable for the whole family are:
-When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano
-Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners by Naomi Shihab Nye
-Life Doesn’t Frighten Me by Maya Angelou
So now that you’ve been armed with a list of poems for each of your kids, why don’t you take a moment and pick out one of Shakespeare’s Sonnets to read to your spouse on Saturday night?
Wherever you and the family go to explore poetry I hope you enjoy it! And don’t forget, poetry isn’t just meant to be read, it is also meant to be written. Encourage your children to come up with their own silly, epic, haiku, or hopeful poems and be sure to tag us when you show off their masterpieces! If you are so inclined, place pen to paper and come up with your own too! We would love to read it.