Readers become Writers
I for one, think it’s great! Children’s verse tends to be of the rhyming kind, which sort of rolls around on your tongue and has a good time. What a fun way to introduce language–make it sound good and feel good; make it play. It’s also short. Most young kids’ books are picture books–sort of the old-fashioned interactive variety that allows you to have a discussion about what’s going on!
On the other hand, it’s indisputable that many–even most–of the old nursery rhymes are fairly violent, sad, and fearsome.
- Old Mother Hubbard couldn’t feed her children.
- Little Miss Muffet was frightened by a spider.
- Humpty Dumpty fell and completely broke himself.
- Jack and Jill did about the same thing.
- There was a witch that wanted to eat Hansel. (Hansel and Gretel)
- Trolls wanted to eat the three billy goats; and even though they didn’t, the billy goat’s revenge was to poke the trolls eyes out.
There are some newer forms of poetry for kids, but they’re mostly scary too.
Here’s an excerpt from ‘What If’ by Shell Silverstein—who writes wonderful poetry books for kids.
Last night while I lay thinking here
Some Whatifs crawled inside my ear
And pranced and partied all night long
And sang their same old Whatif song:
Whatif I flunk that test?
Whatif green hair grows on my chest?
Whatif nobody likes me?
Whatif a bolt of lightning strikes me?…
What’s a mother/father/aunt.uncle/grandmother/grandfather . . . to do?
First, in my opinion every child should know the basics, and that actually includes these wonderful rhymes where horrible things happen. As a child, I somehow enjoyed them without being scarred for life and, in fact, it didn’t even occur to me to be horrified, frightened, or even upset. In fact, having these nightmarish events played out on the page rather made me feel secure. After all, I wasn’t there. I was just someone looking on. And the pictures were nice. And the words rhymed.
No one moralized about the message. That’s probably a good idea. Kids don’t need an explanation about things they don’t yet understand. Someday they’ll get the point. When that time comes, they’ll remember the words and the rhyme will take on a new meaning.
Kids actually like scary things, especially when they’re quite safe themselves. Halloween for instance. Swinging high up in the air and holding on tight.
Now, if you find yourself thinking that you don’t want your kids exposed to the classics, you have an alternative! Dr. Seuss is almost 100% positive. Not quite, but almost. ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ is all about negatives. Sam doesn’t like much of anything–going, coming, eating, anything. But most of Dr. Seuss has a positive orientation like this excerpt from ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go.’
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)
KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!
The message of course is READ TO YOUR KIDS before they can read to themselves. Lots of books: picture books, poems that rhyme. Your kids will grow up loving to read, and reading is the foundation for every sort of learning there is.
by Mona L Spaulding Baisch
photo credit: The drawing is my own