Congratulations to our next winner of the Epi Kardia Christmas Book Give Away, Monica from South Carolina, who won two books: Johnny Tremain and Number the Stars. We appreciate Monica taking time to comment on the last blog, Award Winning Books, even over the holidays! We really enjoy everyone’s comments and encouraging words. By subscribing to our mailing list on the right sidebar and making a comment on this blog by Sunday, December 7th, you’ll automatically be entered in this week’s give away. Check out the awesome poetry book and CD in Beth’s blog below that we’re giving away this week!
About ten years ago, I was asked to be a guest speaker at a home school event in Texas. The event had a literary theme and my job was to inspire young people to connect reading and writing. Poetry is one of the easiest ways to correlate reading and writing so I decided to impress everyone with my introduction: recitation of a poem I had memorized as a child. I decided that since I had known the poem my whole life, I didn’t really need to practice reciting it. Of course, that was a huge mistake! There I was, in front of an auditorium of eager parents and their children, and about halfway through "Block City" by Robert Louis Stevenson, I blanked. I literally could not remember the next word, let alone the next verse! After a moment of panicking, I continued my speech as if I had meant to stop mid-poem. God is good and He generously brought the second half of the poem to mind as I finished up my talk. I recited the remainder of the poem and ended my personal turmoil! My love for literature has always been accompanied by a love for poetry, as well. Probably my mother’s fault as she gave me my first book of poetry by Robert Louis Stevenson when I was in elementary school and I still have it today!
Poetry often gets overlooked in school, whether you’re in the classroom or home schooled. Some teachers and parents feel intimidated by poetry while others don’t view it as a required literary topic. The creativity and beauty of poetic language can teach children many lessons. Learning to understand poetry opens a child’s mind to looking at words differently. The word pictures created by poetry help children use descriptive words in their own writing. Also, children who are exposed to poetry as youngsters and continue to read it will find it easier to understand classic literature when they’re older. Poetry books make awesome gifts and may be used for educational purposes, too. Need some ideas? Check out our picks below:
A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson – Yes, this is the infamous book that my mother gave me as a child and praise God, none of the poems have been "updated" or "modernized". This ideal book for early elementary aged children presents gloriously naive and precious pictures of childhood. Two of my favorite selections include "Block City", of course, and "Foreign Lands." This version includes illustrations by Tasha Tudor who maintains the sweetness and innocence of childhood in her artwork, thus matching the traditional poetry by Stevenson. A couple of interesting notes: Stevenson wrote his book of poetry while in bed suffering from tuberculosis and he was also the author of Treasure Island.
The Random House Book of Poetry for Children compiled by Jack Prelutsky – This massive collection of poetry, at 500 poems, presents a wide variety of poets from the classic Emily Dickinson to modern silly man, Shel Silverstein. The book is conveniently divided into general categories such as nature, home, seasons, etc. which can be very helpful when planning a unit study. While you may not find every poem to your liking, there are so many from which to choose that the mere size of the collection makes it useful. The illustrator, Arnold Lobel, presents fun and childlike artwork. As a Caldecott winner for his Frog and Toad series, I can’t imagine a more appropriate artist!
Poetry for Young People series by various artists (the link is for Robert Frost, but it will take you to multiple books in the series) – While I didn’t review all of the books in this series, I did enjoy the Robert Frost selection. The books begin with a brief biography of the poet and then go on to share 25 or more poems. This series would be ideal for a student who becomes fascinated with one particular poet or if you want to study a poet from a specific time period. Even though this series is designed for older elementary and middle school students, it would be wise to preview before having your student read, as many poets, such as Emily Dickinson, lead complicated lives. Each book also has a different illustrator, in an effort to match the poet’s writing style and content. Henri Sorensen, an excellent and realistic illustrator, combines nicely with Robert Frost.
A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children by Caroline Kennedy – The Kennedys have a family tradition of children creating poetry scrapbooks as gifts for parents and grandparents (see our related activity toward the end of this blog) and that tradition inspired Caroline to compile this collection. Organized in general themes such as seasons, animals and adventure, the themes may not be original but they’re definitely appropriate. A wide variety of poets are featured from Ogden Nash to T.S. Eliot to Rudyard Kipling, many of whom are not typically found in children’s poetry anthologies. Caroline Kennedy opens each section with a personal and encouraging message. The illustrations, most appropriately done, are lovely watercolors by Jon Muth and a cherished component in themselves.
A Child’s Introduction to Poetry by Michael Driscoll – Where should I begin?! This book will send home school moms around the world into fits of happiness. With poetry so challenging to teach, this publication actually makes it easier and more desirable to learn and share. Initially, you’ll notice that Driscoll actually explains the different types of poetry from haikus to ballads to nursery rhymes to sonnets in an articulate and interesting way. He then features famous poets all across history from Homer to Shakespeare to Dickinson to Sandburg and more! Each poet section includes a brief biography and a poetry sample. The "Words of Wisdom" component featured throughout the book introduces vocabulary from the poems that nicely accompany the detailed glossary in the back of the book. An extensive bibliography opens the door for continued research. One unusual quality is that this book could be used to teach children of every age. Even high school students could benefit from the information and the poetry examples. All of this wonderful text is accompanied by a CD with poetry selections read by professional actors to support the lessons. There are a couple of possible negatives. First of all, the selection for Shakespeare, excerpted from MacBeth, features the witches’ scene. For some families, this may be uncomfortable. Secondly, I think the illustrations are rather mundane for the content. Of course, that’s only my opinion. Children’s illustrators have established an environment of tremendous artistic ability, so my standards have certainly been raised in that area. Despite the possible negatives, I think this is one of the best options for home school parents when it comes to teaching their children to understand and appreciate poetry.
The Bible – Don’t forget Psalms and Ecclesiastes! The gloriousness of God’s Word should never be overlooked in teaching our children. An NIV (New International Version) could offer more clarity while a NKJ (New King James) version may sound more poetic.
Related Activity: For several years, my children created accordion books as gifts for their great grandmother. She had everything and loved handmade gifts. Made of high quality paper and cloth ribbon, the books soon became collectibles. We even purchased a decorative box for her to store the books. One year, the children copied their favorite poems and accompanied them by photos and original artwork. Such a gift can bring sweet memories and be repeatedly enjoyed.
I hope you discover these selections to be memorable gift ideas and helpful educational tools. To add to the excitement, we’re giving away A Child’s Introduction to Poetry (the book and CD!) to our next winner. In order to be in the drawing, be sure to comment on this blog by Sunday, December 7th.
And on a very serious note,
Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get you. And all you can do is go where they can find you. (Winnie the Pooh, as written by A.A. Milne)
‘Til we meet again, many blessings on your week,