When my mother came for a visit this past August she put my older daughter to bed by reading her poetry. I climbed into bed with them, closed my eyes and listened to my mother’s voice as she read some of her favorite poetry to my daughter. The cadence of her voice was so soothing, it brought my daughter and me such pleasure. I will cherish the memory of the three of us all snuggled up on my bed reading classic poetry.
Since that night in August part of my older daughter’s bedtime routine is for her to read a few poems to my husband or me before we read her a chapter from whatever chapter book we are reading at the time. Hearing her read quality literature is one of my proudest moments of being a parent.
Poetry is for everyone, for every mood — for parents to read to children, for children to read aloud. Reading to your children may be the single, most important contribution that we, as parents, can make toward our children’s success in school.
Poetry is a means of self-expression. Poetry appeals and matters to children because they can find or write a poem about any subject that appeals and matters to them. My daughter delights in hearing classic poetry like She Walks in Beauty by George Gordon, Lord Byron or How Do I Love Thee? by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. She also loves hearing silly poetry like Mrs. Mitchell’s Underwear by Dennis Lee or The Reason I Like Chocolate by Nikki Giovanni.
My older daughter’s favorite poem is Silver by Walter de la Mare. The words in the poem are so descriptive. It is one of my favorite poems as well. My younger daughter has two favorite poems, they are The Tyger by William Blake and Pegasus by Eleanor Farjeon. All three of us love Something Told the Wild Geese by Rachel Field.
There are many other poems and poets that bring us merriment. You can’t go wrong with Robert Louis Stevenson. In fact, one day I was reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Land of Counterpane to my older daughter, she asked me what a counterpane was. I admitted I had no idea. We got out our dictionary and we looked up the word. A counterpane is another word of a bedspread. Voila! A new word was added to our lexicon. Thank you Mr. Stevenson!
In her book, In the Middle, Nancy Atwell writes, “Seventy years ago half the literature taught to fourth grades in the United States was poetry. Today, it’s 97 percent prose and just 3 percent poetry. Poetry deserves better and kids deserve better.”
Reading poetry aloud to children should not be the responsibility of one parent alone; children need private reading sessions with their fathers just as much as with their mothers. Children, especially boys, do not see writing or reading poetry as a masculine activity, and so they grow up believing that the enjoyment of poetry is not a “manly” pursuit. If a school-aged child could hear their fathers read poetry aloud, they would be better able to resist prevailing cultural stereotypes. If you are a single parent, actively seek out adult role models of the opposite sex – grandparents, neighbors, friends, etc. to read.
My older daughter and I have been working on a special Valentine’s gift for my mother. I’ve been recording my six-year-old reading an anthology of poems. I plan on burning her voice recordings onto a CD. I am certain my mother will love the gift. Hearing her granddaughter read E.E. Cummings, Robert Frost, Robert Louis Stevenson, Rachel Field, Christina Rossetti, Emily Dickinson, Langston Hugues, and William Wordsworth to name a few will bring her down with a fever of delight.
Do you have a favorite poem or poet? If so, please share.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Courtney Cappallo of Massachusetts, USA. Courtney can be found homeschooling on her blog, Table of Four.
The photograph used in this post is attributed to the author.