Rhymes for a reason

Rhymes for a reason

Introducing poetry to young kids is a great way to teach them about life, minus the lecturing.

I have never spent as much time enjoying poetry as I should have. As I grow older, I increasingly recognise the ability of poetry to deliver the truths of life and emotions in short, hard-hitting fragments. So, I have been making an effort to read and appreciate poetry along with my daughter. Here are snapshots of our journey so far.

I grew up reading G P Rajaratnam’s Kannada poems for children, and naturally, that was what I turned to at first, for rhyming, alliterative and rhythmic poems for my daughter. A good place to start exploring more Kannada poetry for children is ‘Makkala Janapriya Sahitya’ — a set of five books with poems by five well-known Kannada poets. You can read them all for free on storyweaver.org. In English, a number of popular picture books employ engaging verse to tell their stories. It is a great way to get children attuned to the charm of poetry. Books by Dr Seuss and Julia Donaldson are evergreen. Closer home, Anushka Ravishankar has written wonderful books in verse.

Children love the hilarious poems of Shel Silverstein. He has a number of collections of poems that deal with things that kids can completely relate to, like homework and annoying siblings! Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl is a set of fun, twisted alternatives to familiar fairy tales. They can be slightly disturbing for younger kids though, so please use caution! I enjoyed Vikram Seth’s Beastly Tales from Here and There with my daughter — this book inspired her to write her first poem. My favourite in this collection is The Elephant and the Tragopan, which deals with the mindless destruction of the environment by humans.

One can never go wrong with a solid collection of poems, like Classic Poetry, selected by Michael Rosen, and 100 Great Poems for Children, selected by Deepa Agarwal. Both contain classic poems by well-known poets across the decades. The latter includes works by great Indian poets too.

For a long time, I thought poetry was poetry only if it rhymed and had metre. But then I discovered the beauty and power of free verse. Lately, I’ve read excellent books in verse for children. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, for children 10 and up, is a touching, evocative book about the poet’s childhood. If ever there was a book that inspired me to write poetry, this was it.

Another one I really liked was The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. This is for older teens and is a powerful and hard-hitting book about growing up.

March 21st was World Poetry Day. UNESCO marks this day to recognise ‘the unique ability of poetry to capture the creative spirit of the human mind.’ Here’s hoping all of us find more poetry to lift our spirits in these troubled and uncertain times!

The author got a master’s degree in energy engineering and worked in the IT industry until her daughter dragged out the writer lurking inside her. She has written eight books for children and can be reached at www.shruthi-rao.com

GobbledyBook is a fortnightly column that gives you a peek into the wondrous world of children’s books. Hop on! Or as Alice did, plunge into the rabbit hole.

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