Poetry to Grow On

“Poetry to Grow On,” Ensign, Mar. 2000, 69

Poetry to Grow On

“Poetry,” said the author Carl Sandburg, “is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.” I have always liked that definition because it suggests that poetry is both beautiful and practical. Over the years, my husband and I were able to help our children develop a love for both aspects of poetry.

On Sunday evenings I took aside one child at a time and introduced a poem. We talked about the author, then I read the words with expression. I asked how they liked it, and we discussed its meaning. Sometimes I read over the poem two or three times to help them start memorizing it. During the week the child would practice it.

A week later, on Sunday afternoon, we shared our memorized poems as part of our family time together. I prefaced each presentation by telling something about the author, the times in which he or she lived, and whatever background I thought might interest the children. Then one of the children would stand and recite a poem. Afterward, we discussed its meaning as a family and whether we liked it.

We soon realized that our children were often shy about performing in front of the family, and the listeners sometimes giggled and fidgeted. We took this opportunity to work on poise for the performer and manners for the audience. Our persistence has paid off, and most of the children have developed a degree of confidence in standing before a group.

I tried to expose the children to all types of poetry, from Shakespearian ballads to humorous rhymes. Many poems exemplified values of the past and provided opportunities to teach about history and culture. Our children suggested that Mom and Dad take regular turns too. This helped all of our children not only to become acquainted with the great poets but also to develop sensitivity to the beauty of language.—Ann M. Johnson, Sandy, Utah

Illustrated by Beth M. Whittaker