April is National Poetry Month in the US. Do you have a poem you remember and can recite? “Hey diddle, diddle, the cat and the fiddle…” or “Twinkle, twinkle, little star…” Poems can bring us right back to the time when we first learned them and they are a way to hand down family traditions to our own children.
Poetry can take many forms. There are jump rope rhymes, European Mother Goose nursery rhymes, and African Talking Drum rhymes. There are Japanese haikus with short lines. There are silly limericks, serious verses and catchy songs. Read some poems together, or even write your own, and discover what types of poetry you and your child like best.
Poetry books have their own section in the library. Apart from the children’s picture books, books of poems are located in the children’s 811 shelves. Ask your librarian to show you the way there.
Rhythm and sound are important in poems. Many use rhyming words, but not all poems do. Here’s a poem that does both: “Mix a Pancake” from the book “Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young” collected by Jack Prelutsky. “Mix a pancake, stir a pancake, pop it in the pan; Fry the pancake, toss the pancake–catch it if you can,” by Christina Rossetti.
Words in poems are like colorful strokes of a brush that paint pictures in our mind’s eye. Poems often describe moods, environments, colors, sounds, and textures. You can feel the heat and smell the earth in the words of the poem “Farmer” by Carole Boston Weatherford, from the book “In Daddy’s Arms I am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers.” “A plot of weeds, an old grey mule. Hot sun and sweat on a bright Southern day. Strong, stern papa under a straw hat, plowing and planting his whole life away. His backbone is forged of African iron and red Georgia clay.”
Poems are an escape from the ordinary way of using language and introduce new vocabulary– words that aren’t used in common speech–with your child. From “Alphathoughts: Alphabet Poems” by Lee Bennett Hopkins, here are the poems for two letters of the alphabet. Both introduce some advanced vocabulary. “O: Ornithologists. Teachers of flights and tweets and reasons for putting out suet.” “P: Pencils. Magical implements waiting for stories, poems… to pop out from head to lead.”
Poems are a way to pass on language from one generation to another. Do you remember the poem “Mud,” by Polly Chase Boyden? “Mud is very nice to feel, all squishy-squash between the toes! I’d rather wad in wiggly mud than smell a yellow rose! Nobody else but the rosebush knows how nice mud feels between the toes.”