Poetry Speaks to Children

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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.

Reviewed on April 24, 2010

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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  1. I’d never read much children’s poetry (or any poetry at all, frankly) until I took a children’s lit class a few years ago in library school. My professor was a great poetry lover and we were required to read and review several poetry books, and I am so thankful. I’d forgotten how wonderful poetry can be. I really loved Sing a Song of Popcorn and A Family of Poems by Caroline Kennedy. And anything by Jack Prelutsky.
    .-= Karenlibrarian´s last post on blog ..The Belly of Paris by Emile Zola =-.

    1. Karen, I haven’t found the Kennedy anthologies, must look them up. And I have a book of Prelutsky out from the library right now! I can’t get my son interested in that as much, but I’ll give him a few years…

  2. When my kids were younger, they really enjoyed an anthology, “Poems for the Very Young”, selected by Michael Rosen (we still have this one). As they got older, Shel Silverstein!

    Too bad about the inconsistent quality of readings in the Poetry Speaks for Children. I’ve been intrigued by this concept overall (for audio training) but now I wonder if it’d be worth it (since the Poetry Speaks anthology is pretty expensive)
    .-= Valerie´s last post on blog ..The Winner of “Emotional Geology”! =-.

    1. Valerie, I LOVED Silverstein as a kid! Does your library have Poetry Speaks? I own it (and have enjoyed it here and there). My library does have it and it’s worth listening to, I think, to hear the authors. Very interesting.

  3. Another great place to discover new poems is the new spoken word poetry album “Poetic License: 100 Poems/100 Performers” featuring Jason Alexander, Patti LuPone, Michael York, Kate Mulgrew, Paul Provenza and 95 other top performers reading a poem of their choosing. If you know anyone who claims that they don’t like poetry, you should get them this album so they can hear the magic that you already see on the page.
    For more info, to read the amazing reviews, or to purchase the album, visit GPRRecords.com.
    “Poetic License” is available for purchase and preview on iTunes. Here’s a link to Part 1 of the album: http://bit.ly/poeticlicense_itunes

    More info:
    Said Trav S.D. on his blog Travalanche:
    “Three of my favorite poems happen to occur all in a row: Poe’s Annabel Lee, Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and Tennyson’s Ulysses — it’s like back-to-back hits on the poetry Top 40. Furthermore, the indiscriminate mix of bold-faced names and literary classics produces more than usual interest. Florence Henderson reads Longfellow! Barbara Feldon reads Margaret Atwood! And a long list of others: Christine Baranksi, Jason Alexander, Cynthia Nixon, Charles Busch, Michael York, JoBeth Williams, Paul Provenza, Richard Thomas, Kate Mulgrew, etc etc etc.”

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