Okay – raise your hands – how many of you hear the word poetry and cringe, run the other direction, and/or get a nauseous feeling in your stomach? How many of you have flashbacks to high school AP English and couplets, sonnets, the King’s English and boredom? Many adults I know have that reaction to the word poetry. I have to admit that I did to until just a few years ago. That’s when I discovered a whole world of accessible poetry being written for children. There are some fabulous poets writing some very clever, sometimes funny, sometimes thought provoking verse to be enjoyed by all. Not to mention that most song lyrics, if you remove the musical accompaniment, are poems. So are nursery rhymes! Not to mention, my most beloved Dr. Seuss was a master of rhyme and poetic phrasing. So don’t cringe, or cry, or be afraid when I tell you that this week in class, we are going to read some poetry. I really believe we can expose children to quality literature at a very young age in the same way that we are exposing them and educating them about the vast amount of musical genres we explore in class.
One of my favorite poets for children is the highly acclaimed Shel Silverstein. Is there anyone in their teens, twenties or thirties who hasn’t had the Giving Tree read to them or read it themselves? I’m betting that just about everyone can recognize the covers of Falling Up and Where the Sidewalk Ends. What I did not know about Shel Silverstein until this weekend is that he wrote the lyrics to the song “A Boy Named Sue” that Johnny Cash later made famous. I also think that Shel Silverstein’s illustrations are as enjoyable and entertaining as his verse. Another, possibly lesser known, but clever writer is Jack Prelutsky. My children love his works and I highly recommend adding some to your family’s library.
Iona Opie and Rosemary Wells (of Max and Ruby fame) have done some beautifully illustrated and written versions of Mother Goose Rhymes. These are particularly good for the infant and toddler set because they come in board books. Iza Trapani also does beautiful renditions of traditional children songs and poetry.
I know that Jenny at the Wells Library in Albany has selected many poetry books to showcase this month. All of the other Athens County Children’s librarians are fabulous. Take a walk, or drive to your nearest library and check out some poetry this month.