One of the most wonderful things that we can do for our children is to open them to the world of poetry. Poetry used to be a huge part of a child’s life when nursery rhymes were still popular, but poetry has gotten lost in the shuffle of modern life. It isn’t that poetry isn’t there, it is simply that we are not always as aware of it and classic poems are less often read to children. Poetry for Kids, a new series by Moondance Press, an imprint of Quarto Publishing, is hoping to change that.
Charles Nurnberg, Publisher at Quarto Publishing Group, explains this situation eloquently:
“Many years ago, my grandmother read poetry to me at a very young age, even Shakespeare. She felt, as I now can appreciate, that the emotion and mood of poetry, even when it is almost too hard to understand, is so essential to understanding the world around us. I’m hoping that this series, with its selection of a very diverse group of poets, and with art by some of the world’s best illustrators, will bring that all to life for a new generation.”
The edition on Emily Dickinson, one of my favorite childhood poets, is beautifully separated into seasons. The gorgeous illustrations lure the readers in and adds a lightness to poems that can sometimes be quite dark.
What sets this book apart from many books on poetry that I have seen, is that in the back is a section entitled “What was Emily thinking?” This allows readers to understand some of the deeper meanings to some of her poems if they choose. For example, the poem “they dropped like flakes,” could be about many things. However, Emily Dickinson wrote that specific poem about men dying during the Civil War, even though she never names the fight.
Another poet who can be daunting to an adult, let alone a child, is Walt Whitman. But his poems are beautiful and share a love of America that is not often found in poetic form. Whitman was often noted as being the father of “free verse,” a style of poetry that often feels more like a story.
Whitman’s poems were often exceptionally long. “Song of Myself,” his most famous work, has over 1300 lines. Many of his poems were epic in nature – long, narrative poems that are usually about heroic deeds and events that are significant to the culture of the poet. What they have intelligently done with the book on Whitman, is publish excerpts of some of his more famous works so that young minds can get a sense of his style and what he was writing about without getting lost in the complexity of his poetry.
I think that these books are remarkable. They offer wonderful insight into the poets and their poems without being overwhelming. It is important to note, however, that books on poetry are not books that you are going to sit down and read cover to cover. That said, they should be included in how we read to our children and as a part of their libraries.
Poetry is something to be shared with children of all ages. We can read poetry to very young children so they hear the way our voice changes with the melodic tone of a poem and understand that tone changes with different emotions. We can read poetry to a child so they can better understand rhyming and word choices. Poetry can also be an interesting tool when teaching children about how a thesaurus works. Poetry is an amazing form of expression, something we should all feel free to share. From silly poems like limericks to deep and sometimes tragic poems, emotions are often key in poetry.
The next two books in the series are on Robert Frost and William Shakespeare and a Carl Sandburg version is also currently available. These are amazing classroom additions and great ways to bring poetry into the lives of your children.