April 7, 2011

How to Love Poetry

Thursday over lunch, our oldest read us two poems he found.  One was comical.  It was about a little brother, of which he has one.  Thus, we found humor in the similar to life descriptions.  The other was more serious and somber.  Interesting how he chose two different subjects and styles to share with us. 

Inspired, my youngest daughter requested to recite a poem she had memorized years ago.  She did well, but fumbled a word or two.  The two older children gently prompted her memory as they had memorized the very same lines many years ago.

I smiled at the scene.  Children devouring poetry like the sandwiches before them. 

As a young child, I was not exposed to much poetry.  I remember having to memorize a poem of our choice.  Having little knowledge of poetry I chose the first one I saw.  It was "The Village Blacksmith," by Henry W. Longfellow.  Though I did not comprehend the entire meaning, I do remember thoroughly enjoying the sounds of the words strong together.  Having no further exposure to poetry, my budding enjoyment of it ended.

A few years later, probably around fourth or fifth grade, we started learning about rhyme and rhythm in poetry.  I was fine locating rhymes.  Rhythm was a completely different story.  I could not tell the patterns of accented and unaccented syllables in any line.

By middle school, we were reading Shakespeare's sonnets, and discussing his usage of iambic pentameter.  Having the 'formula' didn't help me foster a love for the flow of words.  I managed through the lessons, supplying the right answers, but no love was lost when we moved onto a new unit.

Except for a few more brief encounters in high school and college, I rarely gave poetry a thought.  To me, it was a form of writing that had been dissected, chewed up, and spit out before I could ever savor the sound.  Since I no longer needed it for a school lesson, it had no place in my life.

It was not until we were considering homeschooling, and I was researching early education at home, that I read about the many benefits of reading poetry to children.  I was fascinated.  Benefits to poetry, really?  My predominately negative, limited exposure was obviously not the benefits being promoted.  After further research, we decided to follow a simple routine of reading and memorizing lines of poetry with our children.  There would be no pressure to find rhymes and rhythms until a love for verse had first been fostered.

Amazing results occurred, not only did the children enjoy the simple reading of poetry, but I, too, began to enjoy it.  I found a deep appreciation for the beauty and craft of poets forming lines and stanzas into lovely words to be read aloud and appreciated.  In fact, it was through reading poetry to the children that I inadvertently stumbled upon poets like Robert Frost and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  The works of these two poets are now counted among my favorites.

Today, six years into our homeschooling journey, we have collected many favorite poetry books.  A few of these are....

Leaves From A Child's Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson
Singing Trees, by Edith Witmer
Dancing Buttercups, by Edith Witmer
Cotton Sailboats, by Edith Witmer
Favorite Poems: Old and New, selected by Helen Ferris*
Poetry for Young People: Robert Frost, edited by Gary D. Schmidt*

*These two books are not featured in the photographs as my son was reading them at the time...perhaps that in itself is a better recommendation...


  1. As I was reading I remembered our discussion of our lack of rhythm...

    We, unfortunately, still stick to nursery rhymes for the most part. Maybe it's time to branch out a bit! What fun your children had at the lunch table sharing.

  2. I was raise in a French public school, and poetry was not taught for some reason, but I now enjoy word, how certain combination can just sounds like music to y hear, thank you for sharing the links I think I will get a few of your recommendations :-)

  3. Hmmm. Admittedly poetry is not my favorite - I did fine when we studied it in school, but I liked the classics or stories better. I'm going to check out those books to see what I might be missing :)

  4. Fabulous post! Oh so true! Love how much my little one loves it!



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