Poetry for children


This coming Friday has been declared World Poetry Day by UNESCO, so I found myself looking into the archives to find this post Stephanie Madewell wrote for me when Hudson was born: I’m feeling inspired to try finding some poems to read with him. 

by Stephanie Madewell

One of the great sneaky pleasures of being around little children getting to experience all sorts of firsts, to see and be reminded of wonders hidden in plain sight. One of those everyday wonders is poetry. For many of us, childhood is woven through with nursery rhymes and funny poems, but eventually life tilts to prose. Poetry retreats to the highest, dustiest shelf, (maybe) respected and (generally) unread.

This is a tragedy!

We are born to poetry and poems are born to be read aloud, which makes babies and poetry a perfect match. Tiny babies are an especially ideal audience for reading or reciting poems to – they don’t need pages to turn or pictures, just your voice and face.

There are many, many good places to look for poems, and many excellent books of poems specifically for children, but my favorite read aloud anthology is The Rattle Bag,edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes. Hughes and Heaney, good friends, were both incredibly well-read and extraordinary poets. They sat down together in the early ’80s and compiled over 400 of their favorite poems, then put them in alphabetical order. It’s an oddly genius arrangement that lets each poem sing out, unexpectedly and wonderfully, and makes it easy to stumble across treasures. It’s the perfect volume to pick up and flip through until you find something that catches your eye, and there’s enough there to get you through a lifetime – if I could commit the whole to memory and ended up stranded in darkest Peru, I would feel pretty lucky. And while few of these poems were written for children, almost all of them can be read to them. I’ve read selections from it to squirmy babes, antic toddlers, and fidgety kindergarteners, and the response is always ‘MORE!’

And you never know. Keep it up, and eventually you might have someone who’ll recite poems for you.

[Republished from my previous parenting site, Baby Mine, August 2011; Thank you again to Stephanie of Even Cleveland]

Related posts:

Travel Guides

Browse By Category