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Great Kid Reads for National Poetry Month

Kids love poetry before they even know what poetry is. Any preschooler just learning their sounds and letters will be happy to tell you all the rhyming words they know. And they definitely know that you don't need to be a scholar to write poetry. All you need is an imagination.

Read some poetry for National Poetry Month Kids love the rhyming words and vivid descriptions of poetry.

The dictionary definition of poetry is “a metrical writing; writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chose and arranged to create a specific emotional response through meaning, sound, and rhythm”(Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary). So, not only does poem traditionally rhyme, or follow some kind of rhythmic cadence, but it also incites an emotional response from its audience.

April has been celebrated as National Poetry Month since 1996. It was first organized by the Academy of American Poets, along with government agencies, educators, and publishers, to showcase the history and contemporary work of poets for everyone, especially children. It’s celebrated in a variety of ways, from Open Mic poetry nights to Poem-A-Day emails to campaigns to nominate which beloved poet they’d like to see on a postage stamp.

But the simplest way to celebrate poetry month with your kids is to walk into a library or book store, browse the poetry section and enjoy some lyrical pieces that cover topics ranging from silly to sad to inspirational to controversial.

Here are a few personal recommendations, if you’re looking for a book of poetry to pass the time for the last few days of April:

"The Book of Rhythms"

The First Book of Rhythms – Langston Hughes is probably one of the most popular American writers of the 20th Century, best known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance in the late 1920s. A novelist, playwright, non-fictionist, and poet, Hughes also wrote books for children. He wrote a series called “The First Book of…” which covered topics highly-integrated into the African-American experience, like jazz and the West Indies. In 1954’s The First Book of Rhythms, Hughes helps young readers identify the visual and rhythmic patterns of life, from a falling snowflake to the flow of the Mississippi River. The book was reprinted in 2000 as The Book of Rhythms. Make reading this book an interactive experience. Follow up a reading with walk around Whatcom Falls Park to appreciate the intricate patterns of the foliage and rock formations, and the unique rhythms of the cascading falls.

"Where the Sidewalk Ends"

Where the Sidewalk Ends – We had a copy of this book on our bookshelf for as long as I can remember. The white dust jacket was ripped and the pages were smudged with loved from being read so many times. This Shel Silverstein collection of poetry and illustrations for children was originally published in 1974; a 30th Anniversary Special Edition contains 12 new poems. Perhaps I was always partial to Silverstein’s collection because it featured a poem about pancakes (one of my favorite childhood meals) and a character named “Terrible Teresa.” But I think this book, as well as some of his other books like The Giving Tree, continue to resonate with adults because his poets, while often silly and fantastical, also capture a feeling of realism and nostalgia. Where the Sidewalk Ends was a book that taught me that it was okay to be a little weird, to draw figures with wobbly edges, and to listen to poetry like it was a living thing, not just words on a page.

"More Spice Than Sugar: Poems about Feisty Females"

More Spice Than Sugar: Poems about Feisty Females – Poet Lillian Morrison compiled this book of poetry by and about ‘feisty females’ in 2001. Poets like Emily Dickinson, Nikki Giovanni and Alice Walker lend their talents to tell stories about real women, like Rosa Parks, Elizabeth Blackwell, and Anne Frank. This is a great collection to enjoy if you’d like kids in upper elementary and middle school to learn about some positive historical female role models. Perhaps one of the poems will spark interest in getting a biography about one of these inspirational women.

What were some of your favorite poems as a child? What books of poetry for children would you recommend to other parents? Leave a Comment or post in the Forum to let us know!

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Practicing Table Manners at Home

Written By: Evelyn Turner

Have you heard about kids graduating from college without basic table manners? There’s a whole industry that has sprung up around teaching teens and young adults how to “mind their manners” at the dinner table to help them succeed in life.

Practicing Table Manners at Home Start preparing your kids for their future careers by practicing etiquette at home.

You have a teaching opportunity every time you sit down to eat with your children. Give them these basic life skills before they have to undo years of bad habits or unknowingly offend that potential employer over lunch during a job interview.

Here are some of the basics you can start teaching kids, even toddlers.

  • Elbows off the table.
  • Napkin on the lap.
  • Don’t start to eat until everyone is seated and has been served.
  • If you are closest to the bread, for example, offer it to the person next to you before you take a piece.
  • Chew with your mouth closed.
  • Don’t talk with your mouth full.
  • Ask for the food to be passed to you rather than reaching across the table.
  • If you don’t like to eat something being served, take a very small helping (some families call it a ‘no thank you’ bite) to be polite.
  • When you are finished, you have two choices, depending on your family’s norms. Either asked to be excused from the table, or sit and visit with the family until everyone is done. When you are finished, place your napkin loosely crumpled next to your plate. Don’t refold it.

One way to make family dinners special is to have a fun and fancy night once a week. Dinner doesn’t have to be filet mignon; spaghetti would do just fine. Make it fancy by dressing the table with a tablecloth, using cloth napkins, and perhaps setting out some candles. Put out the extra silverware such as a salad fork, dinner fork, table knife, and spoon for each person.  Of course, no knives for the littlest diners.

Turn off the TV and turn on some quiet music. Invite everyone to share their favorite part of the day.  Help each other mind their manners. They’ll have fun during this special family time and build skills for their future.

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Creating a Kid-Friendly Office

The days of “kids should be seen and not heard” have long-since transitioned to a new, healthier world where children are more frequently included in most areas of daily life. In an effort to be accessible to those you serve, and in special observance of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, it may be helpful to ask, “Is my office a place where kids feel welcome and comfortable?” If not, consider adding these items to your daily work space:

Creating a Kid-Friendly Office Your office doesn't have to be a space where kids feel out of place.

Toys and games – Children will enjoy hand-held games, a Nerf ball, puzzles, and interlocking blocks to play with when they spend time in your office.

Art supplies – Provide a box with art supplies such as crayons, coloring books, a chalkboard and chalk, or a set of felt pens and paper. A white board, colored pens and an adjustable height easel can be a great addition.

Children’s reading materials – Check your coffee table. What books and magazines are available for kids to read? If you don’t have any, add a few for children focused at different age levels. Update them frequently.

Children’s artwork – Putting kids’ creations in prominent places will let children know that you value them.

Photographs – Decorate your office with fun pictures of children at activities related to your company or work when possible, perhaps at a company picnic or charity event. Have pictures blown up into posters and framed.

Treats – A snack jar or bubble gum machine can be a great draw for the younger crowd, as well as adults with a sweet tooth. Just remember to think of health expectations that the parents you’re interacting with might have; always ask the parent if it’s alright before offering candy or any food to their kids.

Creating a Kid-Friendly Office A pint-sized chair will make little ones feel comfortable in your workspace.

Pets – Fish aquariums, a gerbil in a cage, or a cat that makes the office its home can help children enjoy your work space. With pets, however, it is important to think of allergies and related concerns for co-workers, customers and other visitors. Have a place or carrier where roaming animals can be contained, if necessary.

Child-sized furniture – A small chair or two and a bean bag are generally enough.

Music – Make sure your office music system has some kid-friendly playlists.

Personal items – Put photos of your family on your desk, shelves or walls. Display a fun collection you have, like stamps or polished stones. It will give kids a glimpse into who you are so they get to know you better and fee like a part of your world.

With just a few of these touches, you can create a “kid-friendly” atmosphere without disrupting the professionalism of the workplace. Additionally, it is a good idea to develop a positive agreement with co-workers about the presence of kids in your office. If everyone has a positive and welcoming attitude towards little visitors, it displays a shared sense of caring to your valuable clients, including parents and the future customers you’ll have in their children.

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