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Friday, April 14, 2006

Children's Poetry Week

We're coming to the end of Children's Poetry Week.

The Children's Book Council designated April 10 through 16 as National Young People's Poetry Week. They have a list of suggested activities that range from reading poetry, writing poetry, to creating displays. They even suggest hosting a bad poetry reading.

While the banal modern poetry that I've been exposed to since leaving school squeezed out most of my joy for the genre, I do remember the enthusiasm with which I embraced the poetry of my youth. Granted, Shel Silverstein made poetry more appealing than any joke or comic book. There was a time when I read Where the Sidewalk Ends so many times that I had it all but memorized.

Now as an adult, I'm finding that there are other poets who have stepped up to fill in the gap left when Silverstein died in 1999. Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith have produced the delightful Math Curse and Science Verse books. They're filled with poems that delight not just the children, but the adults who "get" the literary references that they are making and the poems from which they're borrowing.

Another of my favorites come from Patricia Polacco. She's adapted Mother Goose nursery rhymes to have a very Russian feel to them in her Babushka's Mother Goose. This is a book that my husband and I have used for drama games with kindergarten students and they relish each and every one.

Of course, while there are many wonderful children's poetry books, many children will also take delight in poetry that is not specifically written for them. Certainly the great classic poetry is great in part because of its ability to reach across generations and ages and speak directly to our hearts. When read aloud, children will delight in the sounds of our language. Even if they don't understand every word, they'll respond to the resonance and mood of a poem.

Our household has a particular bent toward Shakespeare and the bard's work is filled with wonderful poetry for all ages. My 8-year-old has taken delight in the songs from Twelfth Night and Puck's speeches in Midsummer Night's Dream which he recites with exaggerated glee. What kid wouldn't like to make the noise of a hungry lion roaring or a wolf behowling the moon?

So while the week is drawing to a close, there's still time to find a favorite poem and read it to a child.

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