While looking for ways to spice up dinner, I found a great book called The Family Dinner. It gave me the idea to read a poem to the girls, which has become a nightly bedtime ritual. I have quite a few books of poetry, both from my childhood and others that I’ve collected over the years, and it’s the part of my evening with the kids that I’ve become most excited about. I’ve even told them that I’ll reward them with a dime for each line of poetry they memorize and recite aloud.
Each time I begin reading or reciting a poem, my heart swells at the memory of all the times my grandmother has recited poems with me over the years. Her mother also recited to her, and I love passing on this family tradition to the girls. It’s fun, and besides, studies show reciting even improves memory and brain function. Here’s an example of a simple, catchy poem that has passed down through the generations:
I eat my peas with honey;
I’ve done so all my life.
It makes them taste quite funny,
But it keeps them on my knife!
Lately we’ve been reading from one of my childhood books, When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne. Some of the poems include British words and colloquialisms, but the kids don’t seem to notice or care. Last night we read “The Island,” and I loved it so much I’m sharing it here:
The Island by A.A. Milne
If I had a ship,
I’d sail my ship,
I’d sail my ship
Through Eastern seas;
Down to a beach where the slow waves thunder–
The green curls over and the white falls under–
Boom! Boom! Boom!
On the sun-bright sand.
Then I’d leave my ship and I’d land,
And climb the steep white sand,
And climb to the trees,
The six dark trees,
The coco-nut trees on the cliff’s green crown–
Hands and knees
To the coco-nut trees,
Face to the cliff as the stones patter down,
Up, up, up, staggering, stumbling,
Round the corner where the rock is crumbling,
Round this shoulder,
Over this boulder,
Up to the top where the six trees stand…
And there I would rest, and lie,
My chin in my hands, and gaze
At the dazzle of the sand below,
And the green waves curling slow,
And the grey-blue distant haze
Where the sea goes up to the sky…
And I’d say to myself as I looked so lazily down at the sea:
“There’s nobody else in the world, and the world was made for me.”