One of the best things you can do for your children is to read to them and with them from a very early age. And some of the best things you can read with them are poems. The aural delights and imaginative fun of songs, verse stories, and classic poems will draw your kids into the wide world of poetry and introduce them to the fun that can be found there. Here’s a selected shopping list of some of the best poem collections for kids.
Hyperion Books (cover image courtesy of Pricegrabber)
(Hyperion Books, hardcover edition 2005) Because these poems were chosen and introduced by Caroline Kennedy, you might think it is just another celebrity “name” book—but you’d be wrong. It’s a lovingly selected scrapbook of favorite poems from all over the world, each beautifully illustrated with watercolors by Jon J. Muth—and while they range in tone from quiet solemnity to inspiredly silly nonsense, they are all real poems, worth remembering. Arranged in sections by topic, the contents include such classics as Emily Dickinson’s “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers —,” William Butler Yeats’ “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” and Wallace Stevens’ “The Emperor of Ice-Cream,” animal poems by Ogden Nash, Theodore Roethke and Basho, and lots more.
Scribner’s (cover image courtesy of Pricegrabber)
(Scribner’s, paperback edition 2002) This collection was put together by Harold Bloom, Yale professor of literature and author of many works of literary criticism, from The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry
(1973) to How To Read and Why
(2000). As you might expect from the man who wrote The Western Canon
, the anthology is intended to supplant contemporary commercial children’s literature with the best classics from the canon, and it includes poems and stories by the great pre-modern authors—Aesop, Shakespeare, John Keats, Rudyard Kipling, Lewis Carroll, Christina Rossetti, Walt Whitman and Edgar Allan Poe, to name just a few.
Oxford University Press, USA (cover image courtesy of Pricegrabber)
(Oxford University Press, USA, paperback edition 2001) Edited by Donald Hall, this lovely anthology begins with several traditional Native American songs, includes such American classics as Clement Clark Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” Ernest L. Thayer’s “Casey at the Bat,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Village Blacksmith” and T.S. Eliot’s “Macavity: The Mystery Cat,” and also offers a selection of contemporary poems for kids by American poets like Gwendolyn Brooks, Dr. Seuss, Jack Prelutsky, Sonia Sanchez and Sandra Cisneros.
Doubleday (cover image courtesy of Pricegrabber)
(Doubleday, hardcover first published in 1957) I still have the copy of this book that was given to me by a favorite aunt when I was learning to read—it’s bursting with early memories, worn to shreds, and I confess I was utterly surprised to find it’s still in print. A voluminous compendium of more than 700 poems collected under headings like “Myself and I,” “My Family and I,” “Little Things That Creep and Crawl and Swim and Sometimes Fly,” “Animal Pets and Otherwise,” “On the Way To Anywhere,” “My Brother the Sun, My Sister the Moon, The Stars and Mother Earth,” this book has its share of both classics and Victorian doggerel for every read-aloud occasion. By the online reviews, it seems to have taken hold in the homeschooling community.
The Greenwich Workshop Press (cover image courtesy of Pricegrabber)
(The Greenwich Workshop Press, 2007) There are quite a number of illustrated editions of classic nursery rhymes for reading aloud to your young ones, but this particular book, illustrated by Scott Gustafson, stands out from the rest.