Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Finish National Poetry Month with a Book of Poems

In the first grade, I read Jack Prelutsky’s A Pizza the Size of the Sun. It changed the way I looked at words and at reading. If I could read one page of poetry, I could read two. I came to love reading first by loving poetry.

In my six-year-old mind, the rhymes were funny, the stories they told made absolutely no sense, and I wanted more of them. In these kinds of stories, pizzas could be as large as the sun. You could fall UP instead of down in Shel Silverstein’s book of poetry, Falling Up. What did I learn as a six-year-old reading poetry? The rules of the universe didn’t apply in poems.

Much later I learned that poems did reflect the real world, sometimes in flowery Shakespearean sonnets, and other times in quick stanzas of reality as in William Carlos Williams’ poems, i.e. “This Is Just To Say.”

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

We introduce words and language to children in rhymes. All of Mother Goose’s nursery rhymes are poetry. The children’s books that stick in our brains long past our childhood—they all rhyme! Madeline, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, Green Eggs and Ham, and the list continues.

So I encourage those among you who may not enjoy reading poetry for yourself to pick up a poem and read it out loud to your child this last week of National Poetry Month. I promise, if the poem is funny, if there are accompanying illustrations, then anything is possible! You may end up reading two or three.

As Shel Silverstein says in his poem “Listen to the Mustn’ts” from Where the Sidewalk Ends:

Listen to the MUSTN'TS, child,
      Listen to the DON'TS
      Listen to the SHOULDN'TS
      Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me-
      Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.

Other Great Books of Poetry for Children:

The Maine Coon’s Haiku by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Lee White

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson, illustrated by Tasha Tudor

Daniel Finds a Poem by Micha Archer

A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children by Caroline Kennedy, Paintings by Jon J Muth

Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman & Rick Allen

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Julie Morstad

What Are You Glad About? What Are You Mad About? by Judith Viorst

Little Poems for Tiny Ears Poems by Lin Oliver, illustrated by Tomie dePaola 

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