A Rich, “Must-Have” Anthology

Anthologies are some of the most useful books one can have in a library—I love perusing through them. Here one can find collections of short stories, plays as well as poetry—all selected by one or more editors or a publishing house.

One of the most important collections for families in the last century (including my parents) was the set of volumes called My Book House — believed to be the first developmentally-appropriate collection for families. That is, the selections began with lullabies and nursery rhymes for the very young and moved all the way through to Grade 12 with the later volumes. Accompanied by beautiful original illustrations, this collection opened up the world of literature to me and my siblings and later my own children.

I not only grew up in a family who read together, but we sang at home and in the car. I also benefitted from attending public schools where our teachers sang with us almost daily right up to Jr. High School when music teachers took over. From Grades 7-12, poetry was part of the English curriculum for everyone. Sadly, today’s children may not have this early exposure to stories, poetry and song.

My husband and I discovered Waldorf education just before our youngest daughter entered Grade 2. Within the first week at her new school, our family noticed that she came home singing and chatting away what we soon discovered were poems learned in class. Week after week, the repertoire increased and the subjects followed the season, a particular lesson or maybe a holiday. She even recited poems reflecting her math lessons.

As she happily shared the poems aloud, she would often accompany the words with movements – arms, hands or maybe her whole self. We were mesmerized especially as the poems grew longer and longer. Having asked her teacher for copies of these delightful poems, I gradually accumulated quite a folder. These came in handy when I was searching for poems to use during my own Waldorf student teacher training. How I would have welcomed David Kennedy’s anthology, The Waldorf Book of Poetry.

Kennedy’s collection is one of those must-have anthologies —you’ll treasure it for decades. As with the anthology I grew up with, David’s follows the child through the grades—and all in one volume. One can find poems for all sorts of categories: Seasons, Fables, Flowers, Plants & Trees, History, and even Numbers & Grammar. It is a rich compendium—broad and deep. I can only imagine how many years he has been collecting these 400+ gems.

No need to be a teacher to use it or even be associated with Waldorf education. Anyone who is curious about poetry or already loves it and wants to share it with someone else will delight in this collection. Fortunately, I discovered it time to include it in our new family resource, Make Way for Reading: Great Books for Kindergarten Through Grade 8.

But there’s so much more to introducing poetry to children than just learning verses by rote or becoming familiar with various rhyme schemes. Whether one is a teacher or not, I highly recommend reading the Foreword by Eugene Schwartz, author of Millennial Child: Education for the 21st Century. Eugene is a leading Waldorf educator with 30+ years in the classroom and who has mentored student teachers. You’ll discover not only how to introduce poetry to children especially in the younger grades, but also begin to grasp why poetry is so important for children’s development, and on so many levels. Every time I read the Foreword, I become more convinced that today’s children may need poetry more than ever.

Kennedy’s book is now available in a paperback edition. The subtitle remains the same: Discover the Power of Imagination. AMEN to that. Many thanks, David and Eugene, for all your work.

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