I own an adult poetry anthology, with accompanying CDs of the poets reading their work, called Poetry Speaks. While I haven’t read it cover to cover, I have listened to some of the poets and flipped through the book. I have enjoyed it. When I saw Poetry Speaks to Children on the juvenile nonfiction shelf at the library, I picked it up. I am always looking for a chance to introduce my son to some of the great poets too.
It was really fun to hear J.R.R. Tolkein, Langston Hughes, and others read their poems. I also really enjoyed the modern poetry in it; I am not as familiar with modern poetry and hearing the authors talk about their poems has encouraged me to look for more modern poetry for kids. My son even enjoyed listening to the poems. Although he is too young to sit and look at the picture book while he listens, he would play with his toys as the narration played. When I stopped it (for one reason or another), he would look up and say “More, Mommy?” It was like music in the background, except it was poetry.
As a mother, I wish this is a book I owned. It is a wonderful way to introduce poetry to children. My son loves to watch animated adaptations of books we’ve read together (for example, Harold and the Purple Crayon became a favorite picture book after we’d watched the Scholastic animation of the illustrations). When he sees a disc in the midst of our library books, he automatically wants to watch or listen to it. It’s exciting to him. Of course, he also likes to read, but the added dimension of sensory experience made this book fun.
Listening to the poems was just one reason I’d love to own this book. The pictures, while not my favorite style were fun, imaginative, bright, and interesting. My son liked looking at them, for the most part, and this was appropriately geared toward the audience (which I would place between 8 and 10 years old). I can see my 8 year old son sitting and listening to the poetry as he read the book, just like I sat and listened to my mother’s children’s song and story records with the accompanying booklet of text.
Lest you think this is a perfect collection, I will point out a few downfalls. The poetry is not representative of necessarily the best poems for children. About half of the book is read for the audio CD and the other half is only present in text. In 100 pages, you cannot appropriately represent the best poetry has to offer to children. On top of that, Poetry Speaks to Children is a collection, for the most part, of poems for which they found recordings done by the author. (A few poems were read by other readers, and these were poorly done. The reading of William Blake’s “The Tyger,” for example, was so horrible it made me cringe.) This limited the anthology to mostly newer works, and it eliminated a lot of great poetry. I haven’t read tons of poetry, but it still felt incomplete and somewhat superficial as an “anthology.”
Nevertheless, despite the negatives, Poetry Speaks to Children is a fun way to bring poetry home. I must remember to find it again and again over the next half dozen years, because I think it’s one my son will appreciate more and more as he grows.
How do you introduce your child(ren) to poetry? We love rhyming or rhythmic picture books, in addition to fun things like this.