In honor of National Poetry month, I thought it’d be fun to share with you some wonderful poetry books for children. Ones that they can read and ones that can be read aloud to them. Any of these would make a wonderful gift!
Most of us like the romanticism that surrounds reading poetry aloud. I think of Ryan Gosling’s character in The Notebook, reading Walt Whitman to his teenage girlfriend. We learn in the movie that his dad had read him poetry as a child and the tradition – and his appreciation for it – never stopped. I know, I know. It’s fictional character. But there is truth in fiction: A love for reading, and poetry for that matter, starts young and is often demonstrated by parents first. I’ve seen it in real life time and time again.
One of my aims of DoSayGive is to claim higher standards for ourselves and the next generation – in everything we do, say, and give. This includes a higher standard for the things with which we fill our minds and the minds of of our children.
It’s certainly fine to read children the silly and often rudimentary books we often see displayed at Barnes and Noble. But I believe as parents, grandparents, teachers, and aunts, we have such an important responsibility: to introduce beautiful literature to children starting at a young age (because many schools aren’t!) and this includes poetry. Children are not going to just pick up classics like Shakespeare and Milton and Wordsworth in high school one day and just love them if they have only been exposed to, let’s be blunt, drivel. (Read more of my thoughts on this subject here.)
You too, my mother,
read my rhymes
For Love of unforgotten times,
And you may chance to hear once more
The little feet along the floor.
– Robert Lewis Stevenson
You may not think that your child or grandchild will enjoy poetry, but you may be surprised! Poetry, in my opinion, includes the simple Mother Goose nursery rhymes we all know from childhood like “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary,” and “Jack Sprat.”
Any learning specialist will tell you, rhyming words, and the different sounds that make up various rhymes, are an important building block for reading readiness. In other words, those old-fashioned nursery rhymes do serve an educational purpose! So say them as you are changing your baby’s diaper and sing them as you are driving your grandchildren in the car.
In addition to nursery rhymes, there are so many other wonderful poetry books for children that often are forgotten. I have written before of my love for Robert Lewis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses (read that post here). My grandmother gave each of her grandchildren and great-children a copy and I remember her reading those beautiful poems to me as a child. To this day I can’t get on a swing without saying in my head; “Oh how do I like to go up in a swing, up in the air so blue? Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing ever a child could do…”
If you are wary about introducing poetry to your children, try reading one short poem a day. You don’t even have to have their captive attention. Read to them while they are playing quietly on the floor or while you are waiting in the carpool line for your older children. Or keep a book of poems in your purse for waiting rooms. You could also download an audio version of a collection of poems and play it in the car.
They may roll their eyes at first, but after a while they may come to love that little family tradition you started. And if you are an aunt or a grandparent, this is a lovely tradition to start- something children look forward to about coming to your home!
Here are some simple books with poems for younger children. I am not an expert on recommendations but I would say baby/toddler to 4-5 years old for these (but the A.A. Milne book pictured at top is on my daughter’s second grade reading list. It’s definitely a read aloud for younger children, too!):
These are great for older children to read (or great to read aloud to pre-readers!). :
What are your favorite poems from childhood? Can you recite any to this day? Comment below!
See more of my classic book recommendations for children here.
Happy Poetry Reading!