Children need poetry. Not just as part of a balanced education—poetry's greatest effect is accomplished when it conjures images in the mind that relate to and describe the experiences of life. Kids do this more easily than adults, and without any of the guidance adults seem to think they need in college classrooms.
A Treasury of Poetry for Young People introduces kids to the great American poets—Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Edgar Allan Poe, Carl Sandburg and Walt Whitman. Containing six complete volumes in the Poetry for Young People series, the poems are specifically chosen for their relevance to kids.
Words and ideas with which children are likely unfamiliar are explained in introductions to the poems and in footnotes, and mini-biographies introduce the poems of each author. An index in the back arranges all poems by their titles. But this isn't a scholarly introduction to poetry for kids—it's an introduction to loving poetry.
You won't find the most obscure or difficult to understand poems here. Poems like "The Road Not Taken," "Eulalie—A Song," "Song of Myself," and "The Sound of the Sea" are included both for their beauty and their plain meaning. Not all great poems are easy to understand, of course; but for kids not yet prepared to wade through layers of meaning, the poems included here are the kinds of poems they need to read.
The importance of poetry cannot be overstated. It communicates in a way no other form of written media can, reaching beyond mere statements or commentary to embrace the common ground between spirituality and physicality, and to celebrate and cry over and wonder at it. If this all sounds too heavy for kids, life is a pretty heavy business, and children are able to handle its heaviness more than many adults suppose.
Besides, if they aren't confronted with the dark and the light from a young age, how will they know the difference when they grow up? If the physical and spiritual elements of life are always divorced, or if one is privileged over the other, how will they become whole people? Poetry is one of the best ways to illuminate these things for them, and A Treasury of Poetry for Young People is an excellent place to start.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.