We spent April and May really focusing on poetry in our homeschool. Well, we do that anyway, with our weekly (ish) poetry tea times, but since April is National Poetry Month, I make extra effort during April every year. This year it spilled over into May.
I chose Love That Dog by Sharon Creech as a Friday-only read-aloud back in April because there was a good bit of buzz about it in my online Brave Writer community. It’s a novel-in-verse, which is usually a hard sell with my kids. They usually reject reading them independently outright. This one is really engaging, though, and it turns out that we all enjoyed it. It’s simply the story of a boy named Jack who’s learning about poetry in school, and as his teacher, the appropriately named Ms. Stretchberry, introduces him to the likes of William Carlos Williams and Robert Frost and William Shakespeare, he begins to assimilate the meanings of the poems into his own life and even begins to write poetry himself as a natural outgrowth of reading it and hearing it. The title of the book comes from a poem Jack writes which is inspired by Walter Dean Myers’ “Love That Boy.” The story ends with Jack getting to meet Myers himself, which is a nice ending, especially for us since we got to meet one of our favorite poets last week. I don’t find this genre of novel the easiest to read aloud; I always feel like I need to show my kids the text so they can get the formatting. If, however, the purpose of reading this for me was to get my kids to engage with poetry, it was quite a success. (Well, it was half a success. 😉 ) One of my girls has taken the idea and run with it, writing poetry of her own and really seeming to own the meaning behind the words. All in all, I’d give this book a Highly Recommended for the poetry lover and non-poetry lover alike. (HarperCollins, 2001)
Reading William Carlos Williams’ “The Red Wheelbarrow” again in Love That Dog inspired Louise, age ten, to write her own poem:
So much depends
A brown leaf
On the wet ground.
I think this is really good!
I labeled our “poetry pop” with all our favorite poems–a Shakespearean sonnet for Lulu, “Love That Boy” for Louise, a twimerick for the DLM (which, I might add, he can READ himself!), “Baa Baa Black Sheep” for Benny, and Frost’s “Time to Talk” for me.
The girls worked on their own anthologies of favorite poems today, so I read aloud from those and finished the novel while and after we ate. They collected poem titles during our poetry tea times during the month of April, so compiling them today involved locating them again and typing them. I’m happy to have these as little snapshots into their lives at ages twelve and ten. These books are going on our poetry shelf.
Lastly, we celebrated National Poetry Month last month by making our own “poet-tree.” Our resident artist, Louise, painted the tree for us, and we all added titles to leaves as we read the poems aloud during April’s poetry tea times. I borrowed this idea from yet another friend who blogs at Up Above the Rowan Tree.
I’d consider this year’s poetry focus a success, and ending our official school year with poetry hit just the right note.