Saturday, January 15, 2011

Urinals and Children's Poetry

The most random and interesting topics come up at the office urinals. This is probably something women would never understand. But on a recent afternoon, a big-shot senior partner at my firm asked the following quite natural bathroom-time question: "Zardowally, do you read poetry to your children?" Needless to say, I was unprepared for this question. But it got me thinking whether poetry does deserve a more prominent place in the rearing and education of our youngsters.

Celebrated children's books today seem to be strictly prose, though many of the classics have a poetic element. I think of "Where the Wild Things Are." There is the Mother Goose stuff, but my kiddos seem genuinely baffled by topics and scenarios that are just too out-of-date. Doctor Seuss is good, if you can handle the weirdness. As a result of the limited poetry to which young children are exposed, their first experience is probably in the school setting where they are required to read and memorize poems without the chance to just enjoy them. I have to believe that young children would love and benefit from a bit more poetry--just as they love to sing and repeat nonsensical phrases they find amusing.

It might also be good for their souls. I think of C.S. Lewis's, "Surprised by Joy," in which he credits the "stabs of joy" he experienced reading poetry as a young boy as a haunting influence that eventually led him to find true and lasting joy in the Christian faith.

I would be curious for Snuggery readers' thoughts and recommendations.


  1. Pierre, by Maurice Sendak.

    Favorite Poems Old and New is a great place to start for reading aloud--but because it's a tome, not the best to just hand to a kid (or at least that's what I thought of it, as a kid).

    A Child's Treasury of Poems -- Daniels -- classic, with art prints, but maybe out-of-date? I used to pore over it.

    Hailstones and Halibut Bones. It's all about colors.

    King George's Head was Made of Lead. (Not so much poetry as rhyming, but an engaging, short introduction to the concept of declaring independence from Great Britain.)

    "How Pleasant to Know Mr. Lear," "The Jumblies," The Dong with the Lumionous Nose," "The Scroobius Pip" -- Edward Lear (delightful nonsense!)

    A Child's Calendar -- John Updike, Trina Schart Hyman

    Beowulf. Translated by Seamus Heany. Wait, what age are your kids...?!

    Well, those came to mind...hope you find them enjoyable!

  2. I would argue that music is a kind of poetry. Certainly many poems have been made into songs. In that case add the "We Sing..." series into that mix. I've heard it's quite popular in certain households.

  3. A new favorite is

    It was given as a gift by Abigail M and was our little M's first introduction to poems proper. I particularly enjoy that it is in boardbook form so that it is accessible to those with chubby little hands. ~LR

  4. My particular favorites- those I enjoyed most reading to you- were A. A. Milne. "They're changing guard at Buckingham palace. Christopher Robin went down with Alice." "James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George Dupree took great care of his Mother though he was only three." Not sure what it was all about -- but great fun!