Poems - Children's Stories Poems and Children's Literature Poems
A Little History
In the very early stages of children's literature, poems were not part of the collection. As a matter of fact, most children's literature was first intended for adults. Myths, legends, ballads, sagas, and epic tales were told by the fireside or in courts where both adults and children gathered to hear the adventures of heroes. Many of those tales have become beloved stories that are still read today. During the Middle Ages, school books in Latin appeared and were used for instruction. The very first printing of something more fun than Latin came in 1484 when William Caxton published Aesop's Fables for Children. Children's literature in the form of poetry arrived with the 1729 English translation of Charles Perrault's Tales of Mother Goose and in 1765, John Newbery, an English bookseller and author, published the first book of children's stories and poems, a collection of Mother Goose rhymes.
20th and 21st Century Children's Literature, Poetry and Stories
The forerunners of today's children's literature and poetry were Edward Lear's Book of Nonsense, written in 1846 and Robert Louis Stevenson's Child's Garden of Verses, published in 1885 and still used today. Christina Rossetti wrote children's literature, poems and stories, which are taught today as well. Children's literature, poems, children's stories, and other works produced especially for children achieved a distinctive place in literature in the 20th Century. In that vein, who can deny the current place of Harry Potter in the ranks of children's literature? Some literature, like Harry Potter, has crossed the age line and is read by adults and children alike. But the trend set its pace many years before with humorous verse and children's stories in poetry like Laura Richards' Tirra Lirra (1932), Hilarie Belloc's Cautionary Verses (1941), John Ciardi's Reason for the Pelican (1959) and Arnold Spilka's Rumbudgin of Nonsense (1970).
Children's stories in poems became very popular with Dr. Seuss, who made rhyming stories the favorite of children everywhere. The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, and Horton Hears A Who have been read by generations of Westerners, many of whom can relate the poems word for word, though it's been many years since they first learned them. Dr. Seuss is not only well known for his children's books, but quotes as well that are often heard. One that is very familiar is "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." Another rhyming children's book quote from Dr. Seuss is, "Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You." It is sayings like this that have helped children, through his books, to gain a sense of themselves as individuals.
Children Express Themselves In Poetry
A trend that began in the 1960s has been books of poetry written by children, such as Richard Lewis's Miracles (1966), which is a collection of poems written by children from many different countries. Along this avenue, scholastic poems and poetry for students found in books feature not only the classics, but also poetry written by children's contemporaries. In schools, language arts teachers who specialize in creative writing are using the art of writing poetry to help children express themselves, to develop a love for words, and to appreciate literature. Children find such classes liberating and exciting as they experience the freedom of expressing themselves in a series of one-syllable, one-word lines that don't rhyme, or poems with many lines of measure and meter. Whatever style the child chooses is his or hers since there is no right or wrong way to express themselves in free-style poetry. Many times students are given the opportunity in language arts classes to compile poetry for students in book form, to be shared and taught to upcoming students. It's an exciting prospect.
Another place where poetry is finding a sure place is when babies are born. Babies tend to bring out the hidden writer in people, whether it is prose, verse, or poetry. Baby books with poems for the baby and the new parents abound. Showers with the theme of baby books invite the guests with baby book poems rather than the standard invitations. Collecting and saving baby poems is a lovely way to remember a child's birth. Compiling them into a book is an even lovelier gift when that baby becomes a young man or woman, giving them a window into the hearts of people who love them.