By Shira Boss
Zero Cost Kids
I’m so excited to share this book with you in case you have not come across it.
We all love children’s books and have our absolute favorites – many of them! I’ve narrowed down all the books we, and you, know and love to ONE volume I believe every child should own, for life.
The One Best Book for Children
There are so many great things to say about this book! Even if you feel you don’t like poetry, please still give this a try, at least for the kids!
You can get it from the library and test drive it with your children. We kept renewing ours for 6 months before the library told us we had to bring it back and give someone else a chance to find it on the shelf – at which time we bought it.
It also makes a fabulous gift for any age – I’ve given several to 3-year-olds.
You Can Love Poetry
Let’s talk about poetry first, then why I love this volume in particular.
To anyone who says they hate poetry, I say they have not read the right poems. A great poem is like great song lyrics, such as The Beatles’ “Eleanore Rigby:” A masterfully efficient use of language.
Because poems are (usually) brief and (hopefully) catchy, poems are easy to memorize and poetry supports an oral storytelling tradition that is rapidly dying in our culture. I grew up hearing my grandpa recite Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Bed in Summer:”
In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light
In summer quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.
I never knew the title or that there are two more stanzas before reading the poem with my 2-year-old in The Big Book of Poetry.
Poems from Memory
Poems, like some children’s songs, can stick in our minds from childhood through old age. I find that really comforting, like a favorite blankie that can never get lost or worn out but can be passed down through the generations.
We probably all know quite a few verses from childhood we might not even realize we remember until we have kids of our own (“Humpty Dumpty,” “Jack be Nimble,” “Hickory Dickory Dock”…).
After reading about how beneficial nursery rhymes are for young children, I got books of Mother Goose from the library and learned some favorites to recite, not read.
To market, to market, to buy a fat pig
Home again, home again, jiggety jig!
To market, to market, to buy a fat hog
Home again, home again, jiggety jog! …
I’ve recited all I can (which is about half) of “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (“T’was the night before Christmas…”) to our older son frequently since birth. One day when I mentioned the moon, he said spontaneously, “The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow.”
All toddlers will parrot what they hear – that’s why both my sons swear (I have a horrible lack of self control!). But there has to be a benefit to being exposed to language like that found in poetry. Not just rhymes, which reportedly helps with reading later on, but the descriptions and imagery.
Our 3-year-old can recite many poems now from The Big Book of Poetry, including ones I have no idea how to recite from memory even though I’ve been the one reading them repeatedly. Interesting. He also comes up with his own rhymes.
While many parents enroll children in myriad classes or activities for enrichment, let’s be sure not to overlook reciting poetry as a treasure trove of enrichment that is FREE, readily available to all at any time of day or night, and grows with the child.
Poetry introduces children to a rhythm and beauty in the language that is often absent from children’s stories. It expands their vocabularies. It introduces them to an art form.
It should help with their imaginations too. The Big Book of Poetry has large, colorful illustrations with each poem, something I find a minus for older readers but a plus for the youngsters.
The Big Book of Poetry
The Bill Martin Jr. Big Book of Poetry is an anthology of over 100 poems, each one illustrated, in categories from nature to nonsense. It has both old favorites – Mother Goose, Robert Frost – and poems from many poets I’d never heard of. I discovered a new favorite in Aileen Fisher:
the world was wise
to think of land
and seas and skies
To plan a sun
and moon that could
Be made to run
The way they should.
For the zesty final verses to that poem, “Wise,” get ahold of The Big Book of Poetry!
I don’t like all of the poems – but the ones I like least are our older son’s favorites. Some that I want to read again and again he finds ho-hum. Something tells me Bill Martin mixed it up just right for introductions to classics alongside contemporary verses that especially appeal to children.
The important thing is, our son loves the book and we read it often before bed. Since I’m frequently trying to locate special requests, he has also learned to “look it up in the index!”
I hope you find a copy of this book for your children – I’d love to hear your experiences with it and other poetry. Please do add your thoughts and tips in the comments below!