I am a lover of words. I always have been, since I was nine and overjoyed that my parents bought me a typewriter for my birthday. This love continued through high school where I filled countless composition books with my teenage poetry. And once I hit college, I tried putting some of my words to music using my guitar. So when I was pregnant with my first child and my fellow teachers threw me a baby shower, it should come as no surprise that one of my favorite gifts was not the super-cute outfits, but a book, Treasury of Children’s Poetry.
Lover of words that I am, poetry is my favorite kind of writing. When I was teaching, I looked forward all year to the three weeks I would spend on poetry, trying to share my love of words with my students who were learning English as a second or third language. Now that I am homeschooling my children, this is something we dive into on a regular basis. But I didn’t wait until my daughter was school-age to introduce her to this genre, and you don’t need to either. Here are just a few of the resources we used, are using, and will use to give our children the gift of poetry.
Our Family Favorite Poetry Books (for different age groups)
For Newborns and Toddlers
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and other favorite bedtime rhymes was one of the first we loved, from the time our daughter was a young toddler. It is a sturdy board book with simple, familiar rhymes such as “Twinkle, Twinkle” and “Hush, Little Baby”. Daddy’s Home! by Rosanne Parry and God Bless Me by Helen Haidle were two other early favorites for the toddler years.
Of course, for poetry and word play, who can ignore Dr. Seuss? Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? is just one that we have enjoyed.
For Preschoolers and Early Grade School
Really Wooly Bible Stories by Bonnie Rickner Jensen has been a fun book to share with our children. The writer has taken major Bible characters such as Noah and Abraham and put their stories to rhyme in a way that is very faithful to the Scriptures.
Also along those lines, there are two series we have really enjoyed. Little Blessings is a series of books by Kathleen Long Bostrom that ask questions such as What is God Like?, Are Angels Real?, and What is Prayer? and gives the answers in delightful poems, accompanied by fun and whimsical illustrations. My daughter has enjoyed them since she was a preschooler.
For Elementary School
Now that she is older, we are enjoying a different series, Heroes for Young Readers published by YWAM Publishers that puts the lives of notable individuals such as Gladys Aylward, Jim Elliott, Eric Liddell (of Chariots of Fire fame), and Corrie ten Boom into rhyme.
Another resource I have from my years of teaching is Evan Moor’s Read and Understand Poetry. This is a reproducible series for different grade levels that include excellent examples of poetry of all kinds and from all cultures. It teaches about different aspects of poetry (onomatopoeia, for example!), but it also simply contains some beautiful poems to read together.
An additional poetry book I happened upon in a small bookstore is My Name is Jorge On Both Sides of the River by Jane Medina. Written in both English and Spanish, it is the poem-story of a boy from Mexico who comes to America, attends school, learns English, and eventually returns to his home. It is poignant, touching, and very close to my heart from working with English language learners through the years.
Of course, poetry is not only about rhyming! As I show my daughter more about the different kinds of poetry, I want to share the book Fly With Poetry: An ABC of Poetry with her. Written and illustrated by Avis Harley, this book uses the alphabet to share different kinds of poetry (“C” for “Cinquain”, “H” for “Haiku”) and then gives an original, fun example of each one.
Treasury of Children’s Poetry, edited by Alison Sage, is the book I received at my baby shower. I absolutely love it. Over 300 pages of poetry and beautiful illustrations, from nursery rhymes to classics, from Shel Silverstein to Langston Hughes.
I could go on and on! The world of children’s literature is filled with wonderful examples of poetry that we can read to our children, help them read for themselves, encourage them to memorize, and let them enjoy.