April is National Poetry Month. As you’re filling Easter baskets and packing for picnics, consider adding a book of poetry to the festivities. Poetry is good for the soul. It’s good for the family. It’s also good for the brain.
There is perhaps no greater tool than memorization to seal language patterns into a human brain, and there is perhaps nothing more effective than poetry to provide exactly what we want: reliably correct and sophisticated language patterns . . . By memorizing and reciting, you practically fuse neurons into permanent language storage patterns. Those patterns are then ready to be used, combined, adapted, and applied to express ideas in a myriad of ways. Additionally, because of the nature of poetry, poets are often compelled to stretch our vocabulary, utilizing words and expressions in uniquely sophisticated—but almost always correct—language patterns. – Andrew Pudewa
We enjoy A Word Well Spoken… Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization by Andrew Pudewa. This thin spiral-bound book gives simple strategies for memorization and is divided into four sections, each with twenty poems. The level of difficulty and length of the poems increase with each level, beginning with such fun poems like Ooey Gooey Was a Worm and ending with The Hunting of the Dragon by G.K. Chesterton. Although children may occasionally memorize poems for school assignments, this approach allows a family to enjoy the process together. A few minutes a day (perhaps right before dinner) 2-3 days a week is all the time required. We have also found the companion CD helpful, particularly for young children to listen to during nap time or rides in the car.
A few suggestions for your young ones:
Book of Nursery & Mother Goose Rhymes by Marguerite de Angeli
A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson (illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa or Tasha Tudor)
The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
Sing-Song: A Nursery Rhyme Book for Young Children by Christina Rossetti
Animals, Animals by Eric Carle
Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O’Neill
The Beauty of the Beast by Jack Prelutsky
The Complete Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear
Poetry for Young People by Emily Dickinson (includes “riddle” poems from nature)
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot (especially fun if you’ve shared the music from Cats with them)
This Singing World by Louis Untermeyer
For older children and adults:
A Sacrifice of Praise: An Anthology of Christian Poetry from Caedmon to the Mid-Twentieth Century by James Trott
Anything by Luci Shaw, Billy Collins, Seamus Heaney, Wendell Berry, and Malcolm Guite
Jim Weiss audio Cds including Famously Funny – A Beloved Collection of Stories & Poems
Blackstone Audio Cd collection Winnie-the-Pooh
Dover Publications coloring book of A Child’s Garden of Verses
When we share the gift of poetry with our children, we are giving them an inheritance of deep love for language. It is a gift to be enjoyed while they are young, appreciated as they grow older, and passed on to future generations.
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What are some of your favorite books of poetry? Help us add to the list.