Monday, October 25, 2010

Poetry for kids or Why everyone should read Shel Silverstein

When my boys were much younger we belonged to a neighborhood playgroup. The kids ranged in age from newborn to kindergarteners. At Christmas we had a book exchange. Everyone brought an anonymous wrapped book and put it either into the "infant/board book" category or in the "older kid" category. I debated the best present to get. After all, I could go to the Dollar store and get a board book but I know I wouldn't have wanted that as a present. I finally found the perfect book:

a 30th Anniversary Edition of Where the Sidewalk Ends

Although a three year old might not dig Shel Silverstein I figured it was a long-term present. I was vastly relieved when the mom who picked my book had a 5 year old. She was the perfect age for the book. Imagine my surprise when the mom opened the book and nearly burst into tears. She announced to the room, "Who would buy an adult book for a child?" in a snide, disappointed voice. I wanted nothing more than to crawl out of the room. This woman obviously had no idea who Shel Silverstein was.

So I am posting here for anyone who doesn't know Shel Silverstein. His work is amazing. And more than anything it is poetry that should be read aloud (as should all poetry, in my opinion).

Lately my boys are getting into reading longer books on their own. But interestingly, they have no desire to move even further up the reading scale and have me read them longer books. While their friends are starting to listen to Harry Potter or The Chronicles of Narnia Eldest and Boy2 still prefer if I read them picture books. Last week Eldest picked up Where the Sidewalk Ends (I bought my own copy at the same time I bought the gift. It has remained on the shelf for a number of years) and they are hooked. Every night they ask for more poems. Both boys want me to read the same book - which is a small miracle of its own.

The cadence of poetry begs to be read aloud. The silly themes in Silverstein's work appeals to kids of all ages. In school over 50% of my classmates chose to memorize Sarah Cynthia Silvia Stout when we had to recite a poem (while I proudly stood and read Robert Frost's The Mending Wall). Yet as an adult I find I am enjoying the books on a whole different level. Silverstein thrives on the acceptability of difference. For any child who has ever felt awkward or like they didn't fit in, there is a Shel Silverstein poem that will speak to him or her.

A couple of months ago I picked out The Giving Tree and read it to Boy2 who listened appreciatively. At bedtime he asked me to read it again. The next day Eldest grabbed it from his brother's room but never said anything about it. When it came time to return the book to the library I asked if he had read it. His comment, "I didn't think I'd like it from looking at the pictures. But, it was actually really good." I would call that high praise from a 7 year old.


Kelly Dahl said...

We've been enjoying Shel Silverstein too. We have a book called "Dirt on My Shirt" which I recommend for some fun poems too. From your recommendation of Poor Kitty we found Poor Puppy at the library which is the current fav. book in our house. Thanks!

g.n.a.t. said...

Jeff Forxworthy hmm? Not who I would have thought of but it looks cute. I'll check it out. We also just got Jack Prelutsky who I have heard of but never read. I'll let you know.

Glad to hear Poor Puppy is popular. Have you guys read Scaredy Squirrel? Similar type of humor and actually good at making kids aware of the silliness of some of their fears.