Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Poetry with Kids

Poetry books on the breakfast table

Yes, another stack of books. This time poetry books for younger readers. One thing that's partly true with homeschooling is that you tend to share your own interests with your children, as all parents do. As a poet myself, I have always enjoyed sharing poetry with my children. Poetry and verse are also popular in Waldorf styled early years education which was a strong influence on us when we were starting out as homeschoolers. 

Books like Elsa Beskow's Around the Year are wonderful if you're looking to bring a seasonal, rhythm to your life. There is a poem for each month as well as the classics The Hours and The Days of the Week and the illustrations reproduce Beskow's magical world of elves and fairies, summer and winter characters as well as some beautifully simple domestic scenes.
Another beautiful collection of rhymes for catching the seasons is Shirley Hughes' Out and About through the Year. In Hughes simple, evocative style, the poems not only have a childlike voice but they really capture the life of small children and their carers. The experiences these poems talk of were really easy for my children to relate to. Another of her books, The Nursery Collection* is also a great favourite of ours and we often gift it to small children we know. Again I absolutely love how close Hughes gets to what life with small kids is really like and when reading her books and poems, not only do the children recognise themselves, I also recognise the life we're living together and feel reassured. 

The great Shirley Hughes

As well as poems which tell the story of their daily life, my children also enjoy the classic rhymes of Mother Goose. Richard Scarry's version is illustrated in his style and has been a firm favourite here ever since it was first gifted to my oldest daughter. 

An absolute classic

A bit of silliness is also very popular and writers such as Michael Rosen and Quentin Blake have been happy to provide it. Bananas in my Ears is a favoured collection as well as Mr Magnolia. Hearing our children shout 'I can't hear you, I've got bananas in my ears' over breakfast has led to a lot of hilarity, and the recording I have of my husband and son reading Mr Magnolia together is very precious, who would have thought there were so many words that rhymed with boot! Reading this kind of rhyme has also led to a lot of great language play among the children with whole meals passing in rhyming play often with words like poo and trump but it's all good stuff if it gets them playing with words in my opinion. 

Great fun!

Of course as someone whose passionate about poetry I didn't stop there. We were lucky to be gifted a beautiful treasury of poetry by a very dear friend when our daughter was young. With it's liberal use of gold and beautiful illustrations it has been much thumbed and is so popular that I couldn't put my hands on it when I sat down to write this post so no photo and I'm afraid no reference as I can't remember the details off the top of my head. Another beautiful anthology that I would highly recommend is the Barefoot Book of Classic Poems. It's a beautiful book and I'm so glad we bought it. We went secondhand as new it was quite expensive at the time. It's a beautifully illustrated collection and feels like one of those really special books we all remember from childhood.

The richly illustrated Barefoot Books Collection
One of my favourites Blake's The Tiger

Since then we continue to add to our poetry collection as and when we see things we like. Emily Dickinson, Gillian Clarke, the list is growing. There is so much great poetry out there to share with children and in doing so I really believe we are sharing something with our children that has the potential to nourish them their whole lives. As Carol Ann Duffy says in her introduction to the Barefoot Collection, "the best of poetry is memorable". It "offers us moments in language which preserve or celebrate, explore or elegise, transform or enhance our human joys and sadnesses". And it stays with us long after we read it, returning to us like an echo or a touchstone throughout our lives.

Beautiful illustrations and rich language make for a gripping read

If you have any poetry books you've really enjoyed with your children please leave details in the comments, I'd love to get some new recommendations.

* This books as well as Out and About is not always easy to find though you can usually get your hands on a second hand copy either through amazon or Abe books. Alternatively ten books were published which together reproduce the sections of this book, you can also find them if you search for Shirley Huges The Nursery Collection. Or why not try the library.

No comments: