Poetry made easy!

I would not read it in a house,
I would not read it with a mouse.
I would not like it here or there - 
I would not like it anywhere!
I grew up not liking poetry,
but I've changed my mind, you see.
{You read that in a very particular style, didn't you?}

Growing up, I did not care much for poetry. At least, not the 'read this and analyze it because I said so and I'm the teacher' kind of poetry that is inflicted upon schoolchildren every once in a while. And by the time I got through college, I kind of rejoiced on the inside that I'd likely NEVER have to deal with poetry again!!

Until a couple of years ago, when the curriculum we use for homeschooling the girls included a daily poetry reading. At first, I thought the idea of reading poems to my 4- & 5-year-olds by Ogden Nash, Joyce Kilmer, Rudyard Kipling, and the like was kind of silly. Would the girls get it? Would they even care? I made a decision that if they didn't seem to like poems, I'd simply cut them out of the curriculum for now and introduce poetry a few years down the road.

Turns out, they look forward to our daily poetry reading almost as much as Read-Aloud time (far and away their favorite part of the day!). We don't set out to analyze or critique; I simply read the day's poem and just see where it goes.

Some days, it goes nowhere. The poem may not move them at all. We simply read and then move on.
Other days, whoa! It's like somebody lit a fire in their mind - I get questions, or "that reminds me of...", or "I think that the person is trying to say...". Or I get illustrations. Or later in the day, I hear them quoting the poem during playtime.

Some benefits I've found of supplying my daughters with poetry and other creative forms of expression:
1) increased vocabulary and a better grasp of grammar.
2) not merely tolerant of new things (dances, musical genres, works of art, etc), but seeing the beauty in them.
3) enhanced ability to share what's on their minds and hearts.
4) a closer bond with Daddy (who is an artist!), Mommy (because I'm learning alongside them), and each other (as they encourage one another to experiment with new ways of doing art, creating songs, practicing instruments, etc).

We recently read The Tyger. My girls LOVED it.
And they loved it even more after we looked up this photo on Wikipedia!
How can you help your child appreciate poetry, even at a young age (Hannah is 3, and I have been reading poetry to her daily for about 3 months now)?

Read good poetry. By yourself, and also to them.
Maybe not every day, but regularly. My favorite poets/poems: Victor Hugo, Amy Carmichael, & the Psalms.

Encourage them to memorize a few good poems.
We memorize line-by-line, or couplet-by-couplet depending on the kind of poem. Every morning for one week, we read a line or two together, out loud. Once the girls have memorized it, we move on, and on, and on - always including all of the previous weeks' memorizations. After a number of weeks, they've memorized a poem! We have memorized a few of the Psalms and Joyce Kilmer's "Trees" this way.

Also, singing songs is a great way for musically-minded kids to commit rhymes to memory!

Have them illustrate a poem once in a while, and praise their efforts - no matter how 'off' you think the interpretation is.
I just love kid art. And kid art inspired by other art is compoundedly awesome. If you have a spot in the house where they can hang it up for everyone to see, do that. Label it, ask for a description & write it down on the back, and date it. Years down the road, it may be a treasure!

When they learn to read, have them practice reading poetry out loud. Dramatically (and you should read it dramatically, too. Seriously. It's SO MUCH FUN.)!
The spoken part of delivering a poem is just as important as the written part. Try not to teach one without the other. If appropriate, let them watch others read their poetry, too. Even my introverted daughter can come out of her shell with flair when she's giving life to a poem she's learned!

If they're engaged in a particular poem, don't be afraid to ask big questions.
"What do you think is the big message of this poem?"
"What comes to mind when you read this?"
"What's another way the author could have said...?"
"How would you have said that differently?"
"What is your favorite part of this poem?"

This helps model critiquing skills and gets them used to thinking as they read to themselves. It's a valuable life skill and we shouldn't wait until they are in their teens to try to teach them!

Assign writing prompts that encourage them to write poetry once in a while. Start with couplets, and go from there.
My girls love it when I give them a writing prompt for poetry. We've been reading through Dr. Seuss' books lately and they get a kick out of writing their own silly rhymes.

I will not __________________________,
I will not __________________________!
I would not ________________________,
I could not ________________________!

Let them fill in the lines however they'd like, or give them a boundary (every other line must rhyme; every line should rhyme, etc)

Give them the freedom and encouragement to express themselves with poetry if they'd like.
My oldest daughter tends to run on the overly-expressive emotional side. Sometimes, if she's having a grumpy day, or she's moody, or if she's over the top giggly, I ask her if she wants to write down what she's thinking in a poem. It helps bring balance to her emotions and helps her focus on a productive task while I get a glimpse of her heart. Win-win for both of us.

Point out that David and others expressed themselves through the Psalms, too. We see frustration, joy, doubt, fear, feeling abandoned, praise, gladness, and anguish - through poetry. We also see (in Psalm 119 and in Proverbs 31) that acrostic poems helped young people commit important truths to memory!

What if your child doesn't seem interested?
I would suggest reading a poem, just every now and again, with no expectation - just offering it. You never know how or when they may get hooked on a particular type or style. And as they get older, if they really just aren't interested - let it go. It's a personal preference, not a sin issue, if they don't like poetry. Make sure you find out what makes them tick, and joyfully encourage those activities (sports? other arts? skills?) instead.

Here are books that I've used with the girls! Most are from Sonlight's curriculum.
(Note: These are not affiliate links. I've not been given any compensation for suggesting these. I seriously just love Sonlight!)
Poems and Prayers for the Very Young
Wee Sing Nursery Rhymes
A Treasury of Mother Goose Rhymes
Eric Carle's Animals, Animals (a favorite!)
The Llama Who Had No Pajama
The Arnold Lobel Book of Mother Goose
Favorite Poems of Childhood
various Dr. Seuss titles
Cornstalks: A Bushel of Poems
The Psalms (almost every day)

and sometimes I forget, but songs are usually a great way to share poetry!
I particularly like listening to:
David Crowder,
Keith Green,
Trip Lee,
Brandon Heath,
Bethany Dillon,
Shane & Shane
with the girls.

How do you share poetry (and other arts) with your children?

Sharing poetry,
for His glory!

I may be sharing this at these phenomenal Link-up parties!
If this post has encouraged, inspired, or blessed you, please comment, pin it, or share it!


  1. I really love this post, Lish. Tomorrow, when I'm more awake I am going to link this up to my homeschoollinkup pinterest board. I think these are excellent suggestions.

    It's funny because for Ava's Suzuki Violin class, we memorize poems every week. Even though she has decided not to do that, we are still going to memorize poems. I think it's so important for academics. learning and thinking are of utmost importance, but there is an element of memory involved. The better we improve our children's memories and expose them to different types of literature, the better.

    Thank you so much for this. Would you mind if I linked up this post in my homeschool link up?

    1. This blesses my heart to read - thank you for your kindness! Please feel free to share this! :)

      I think it is so important to help children learn to commit things to memory. We just studied the Greeks, and how for so long the poems and epic tales were passed down from generation to generation by memory...puts me to shame! I can't even remember my best friend's phone number some days! :P I'd like my girls to excel at memorizing.

      I'm so glad you stopped by, Lisa! Thanks again!

  2. As a former high school English teacher, I have to say that not only do I LOVE poetry, but I love teaching it too. I think part of the struggle with poetry is that people feel they don't "get it." But I think the secret to poetry is to stop trying to get it and just enjoy it...the sounds, the rhythm, and the images. I'm so glad you're taking the time to read poetry to your children. One of my favorites is Poetry Speaks for Children, which I recently discovered at the library. I can't read every poem because they're not all appropriate for my kiddos, but those that we do read are wonderful and so fun.

    1. "Not getting it" had such a large part in my not wanting to teach it. But once I started reading poems to the girls with no real expectation and trying not to worry about not having all the answers to their questions - they loved it. I'll have to see if the library has that book! Thanks, Gabby! :)

  3. Lish, you might like these three posts on my preschool / elementary blog:

    Poetry in Life and Education

    Three Christmas Poems for Children

    "When Mother Reads Aloud" poem

    I am currently a part-time middle school history and language arts teacher in a private / home school hybrid. Since I integrate the two subjects, and since I am a poet myself, we read a lot of historical poetry in the classroom!

    I wrote this poem when one of my students spotted a moth on the outside of the window... http://virginiaknowles.blogspot.com/2013/09/moth-we-see-youresting-wings-unfurled.html

    Virginia Knowles

    1. Thank you so much, Virginia! Your job sounds so wonderful - I was a middle school math & history teacher at a public school - that age group is so wonderful!

      I'm so glad you stopped by!

  4. In school I always thought of poetry as boring, or that it had to be sad and depressing, or that it required too much thought to figure it out. We're using Sonlight to school our children and many of the books above, have been included in our Cores and I've learned how very wrong I was and the children enjoy so many of them!!

    1. We (Lord willing) will be a Sonlighting family all through our homeschooling years! This is our 5th year with Sonlight. One of the things I love the most about it is that there are so many books we've read that I never would have picked for us, that we have ended up adoring (like Understood Betsy!). Sonlight is not joking when they say it's 'the way you wish you'd been taught'!

      What Core are you using right now?

  5. Hello, Very good post! It is like so many things we have lost the art and beauty. I remember as a child loving poetry. My kids loved all the sing songs we sang with the little poems and such.
    Blessings, Roxy

    1. Thank you, Roxy! I agree with you, and Will & I try to be deliberate about sharing art & music of many kinds with the girls. You never know what will stir their hearts!

      I'm glad you've stopped by!
      ~Lisha :)

  6. I'll admit, I'm also one that was turned off of poetry for a long time! I still don't go out of my way to read it, but I enjoy sharing different kinds of writing with my children during our school time. We've come across a couple different kinds of poetic writing during our school time, one they enjoy is from the book Skippyjon Jones, and of course anything Dr. Seuss. Also, they are getting into a lot of contemporary Christian music, it's fun to see them genuinely become fond of artists like Francesca Battistelli, John Reuben and TobyMac. :-)

    1. It's so good to share different styles with our kids! I've heard great things about Skippyjon Jones, I'll have to look at the library for them :)

      My husband is a big John Reuben & TobyMac fan, so my girls like them very much, as well! It's neat to see which styles of music & art pique a child's interests!

      I'm thankful you stopped by, Becky! Thank you!
      ~Lisha :)

  7. We love poetry! The girls get a kick out of reading it, and many of the poems are great pre-reading activities because of the repetitive nature... I find Patrick loving to repeat the refrains...

    1. Yes! Again! Again! ...I hear that a lot around here :) And I think it does help with the pre-reading. Abby (6) had memorized Green Eggs & Ham when she was smaller and it helped her greatly when she finally learned to read!

      Thanks for stopping by, Elisabeth! :)

  8. I'm pinning this post because it's full of useful ways to inspire a love of reading and exploring poetry with kids.

    By the way, what curriculum are you using?

    1. Thanks, Keri! I appreciate it :) We are a Sonlight family!!

  9. Great tips! My daughter seems to really enjoy poetry. I think little ones appreciate the lyrical flow of the words, even if they don't understand much else. Thanks for linking up to Thrive @ Home Thursday!

    1. I think you're right! Word play is such an important part of their ability to figure out the language - my girls really like the nonsense poems the best :)

      Thanks for hosting and for stopping by!

  10. I found your post at Family Fun Friday. You have some good tips on here! Thank you for sharing!

    1. You're welcome, Missy. Thank you for being an encouragement :)

      I'm blessed that you stopped by!
      ~Lisha :)

  11. Hi Lisha,
    These are great suggestions. I never thought of poetry. Thanks so much for sharing with Adorned From Above’s Link Party. You help make the party a success.
    Have a great week.
    Debi and Charly @ Adorned From Above

    1. Thank you, ladies!

      I wouldn't have thought much of it either, if our curriculum hadn't specifically scheduled it in...but I'm so glad now!

      ~Lisha :)

  12. Lisha, I would like to feature this post on the Wednesday Link-up!! It inspires me and I wish I could have taught more poetry to our children. They have memorized so much, and it sticks better at the younger ages :) Great stuff!

    1. What a sweet surprise :) Please do, and thank you for the encouragement, Jacqueline! And yes, so much of it sticks when they are young!


  13. Your post reminds my school time. I loved poetry classes the most. A few days ago I found the best short poems online that we rehearsed at high school. That made me nostalgic.