I very much longed to be an education or English Literature major in college, but for various reasons ended up deciding on speech pathology drawn to the diagnostic aspect of it and the job market. As I began to work with children in the speech context, I soon came to the realization that story telling and particularly poetry had much to offer the language delayed and those with articulation difficulties. The students were thrilled with poetry, with it’s rhythm and rhyme and I soon catalogued poems that had an excess of particularly troublesome sounds for youngsters, such as the /s/ and /z/. It was a wonderful diversion from some of the games and curriculum out there.
Much to my delight, early on in my home educating, I found that although my son did not esteem poetry, but my daughters were drawn to it and memorizing it without being asked. I first discovered this truth while watching them swing while reciting "The Swing," by Robert Louis Stevenson to the rhythm. Next came "At the Seaside" and "Autumn Fires," and our love of poetry here ignited and then broadened.
My observation led me to believe that children are so much more apt to memorize than we give them credit for. They are naturally good at imitation, which for which I try to keep in mind in all areas of development of intellect and otherwise. For this reason, I quickly determined that they needed to be exposed to some of the best examples of language that we are able to give them on a daily basis. It stretches their imagination and significantly enriches them. I adore what Laura Berquest has to say on the topic: "Like any power of the soul, repeated use of the power will improve it."
So, these days my daughters plead, "Poetry Please!" every Friday especially, as they know it is our common practice during snack time to have poetry tea parties. We use real antique china, as it is my belief that everyday is special and we don’t concern ourselves with breaking it! We spread a table cloth on the floor, dish out the goodies and tea, stock up the books and go at it.
During this time, it is for mere pleasure, but having an aversion to penmanship workbooks, we use poetry to practice print/cursive, use it for speech articulation practice and of course to teach literary elements and at times we do memorize it.
Here is our list of favorite sources currently:
1. A Child’s Garden of Verses
2. A Swinger of Birches, Poems of Robert Frost for Young People
3. Read Aloud Poems for Young People
4. Favorite Poems Old and New
5. The Harp and Laurel Wreath
6. Simply Poetry