Reading poems with children
I love reading aloud to my children (8 and 10 yrs old) as it is our special time to bond over a funny or a sad story, discussing things and just to wind down after a busy day. Recently, we have ventured into reading and discussing poems together.
I have to admit, being a non-native English speaker, I always struggled to read poems in the English language. As I could not grasp the meaning fully, I did not dare to read poems with my children.
One of my lovely English friends, encouraged me to give it a go and she suggested some poem collection. It was an effort for me as I had to check all unknow words and read up about the poets. I had to even search for some poem analysis online to make sure I got the poems meaning correctly.
But the effort really paid off! I found that poems started off (in a gentle way) very profound and serious discussions with my children on topics such as racism, wars, ecological catastrophes, love and death, loss or birth of a child into a family. Reading and discussing poems also helped strengthen my children’s ability to analyse the text and use their critical thinking as the meaning is not always obvious from the text. And as poets use much more expressive vocabulary to communicate their thoughts in a such concise form, the vocabulary is more powerful that in most books we read.
Lastly, reading and discussing poems together requires less time than reading a story, so it is easier to find time for this activity in a busy family schedule.
Currently, I am taking my poems from By Heart 101: Poems To Remember collected by Ted Hughes and Poems - Deep and Dangerous collected by Josephine Phillips (not all are suitable for my 10 yrs old, but a lot are). We had really great discussions with my son after reading Telephone Conversation by Wole Soyinka, An Irish Airman Foresees his Death by W.B Yeats, Elegy by Chidiock Tichborne and many more.
If you have younger children (toddlers and pre-school), Noisy Poems by Jill Bennett is a great collection of poems as these are very easy and have a lot of easy sounds for toddlers and pre-school children to copy. With 6-9 years old, you can try Poems to Perform: A Classic Collection chosen by Julia Donaldson or Classic Poems for Children: Best-loved Verse From the Great Poets.
If you are like me and need a bit of help to analyse the poems, I had a look at Unseen Poetry: New GCSE 9-1 English Literature AQA and Developing Poetry Skills: Reading Poetry by Mr Geoff Barton.
If you have any poems you and your children enjoyed, please share it with me. I would love to read those.