This year we have added poetry to our learnin' fun. I had no idea how this would go. I was not read anything more than nursery rhymes as a child and when I was older I read a few of what you could call the most famous poems: If, The Children's Hour, Midnight Ride of Paul Revere... but that was about it. I had no clue about prose, verse, rhyme, etc. But I knew I really wanted to add poetry into our lives. The beauty of it, the rich language, the word pictures.
So I figured I'd start with a poet that was funny. Get the kids hooked with silliness. We began by just opening a book by Jack Prelutsky. I would read out titles and the kids would chose one. I read the poem and then the kids would pick another and I'd read that. No rhyme or reason other than just doing it most everyday at lunch time while I had a captive audience.
Well, praise be, it worked! The kids loved the funny verse. They even wrote their own poem inspired by a poem we had read together.
So I decided I needed to get organized. I better pick out a poet that had depth, but was still interesting to children. I should have some info about the poet's life. We should discuss the poems we read. I chose Robert Louis Stevenson. I made a list of his poems I wanted to share with the kids, found a short summary of his life and kept up the poetry at lunchtime routine. But this time we only did one poem a day, so as to really savor it and discuss it as led.
God is so good! We all fell in love with Mr. Stevenson. Especially Caroline. They could care less about the info I had gathered about his life though. (I made a note to self to let that go, we can go there when the kids are older. Really, Virginia let it be. Don't kill the love of the poems by making them listen to biographical info. Even though it's quite interesting, just sayin.)
As for discussion, well it happened so naturally. Children are naturally curious and when they would ask what words meant, we'd look them up. If the poem discussed foreign places, we'd go to the map. Most of RLS poems are about childhood, so my kids spent lots of time reminiscing about this game or that story. They chased their shadows after reading, My Shadow. They played at pirate ships after, Pirate Story. They discussed what they would name their pretend land in their beds after, Land of Counterpane. This discussion garnered much passion actually. Caleb and Caroline got pretty heated about it and I actually had to tell them to calm down.
At the end of the month we listed off all of his poems we had read and each person picked their favorite. We then read the favs that evening before bedtime!
When February came I didn't want to leave Mr. Stevenson behind. His words were our friends. He had evoked such wonderful memories from my childhood and had prompted such lovely imaginative play in my children. I just knew no other poet was going to be as good for the whole family. We were destined to be let down, my kids would think poetry was boring, we would all be so sad. (I guess we know where Caroline gets her drama. Cause these were the real thoughts running through my head.)
I looked at a few poetry anthologies, there are some wonderful poets to read. But I needed something that all of my age groups would love. I didn't want to go backwards and do silly poems again. Yes, I'm sure my kids would like them, but I wanted to offer them better than that. Christina Rossetti was recommended on a few blogs. I thought Caleb might enjoy her, but probably not Caroline. Definitely not Charlotte. (Yes, even Charlotte loves Robert Louis Stevenson) I finally settled on A.A. Milne. He didn't seem quite as wonderful as RLS, but I figured we'd try.
Success!! Milne has been a blessing so far. He does not evoke the same feelings as Stevenson. Stevenson makes you feel childhood. He brings forth all the good childhood memories you have stored up and makes you think of those you'd forgotten. He sparks imagination and paints pictures with his words. We could just see his poems, if that makes sense.
Milne is different. He's fun and clever. His language is rich. I mean the man really writes a good sentence. He does make you think of childhood, but where Stevenson is emotional, Milne is witty and clever. We chuckle at his poems, but have also learned something as well. My children have played their own game of Lines and Squares. We have discussed where each of us goes to think and what we think about when we're there after reading, Halfway Up. My kids spent a whole afternoon being Bad Sir Brian Botany.
With Stevenson I saw where my kids hearts were, with Milne I've learned where their minds are. Needless to say, poetry has blessed our home and we've only been reading it for three months. I cannot wait to see how it changes us, especially as the kids get older and we read poems with deeper life lessons in them.
If you are not reading poetry to your children, oh please start! All you have to do is open the book and read. Your kids will lead with the rest and you'll all be the better for it.