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The Power of Poetry: Four Anthologies to Inspire Children and Teens

January 20th 2021 was a landmark day in more ways than one: not only was it the day that the 46th President of the United States, Joseph Biden, officially took office; but also, the day on which Amanda Gorman became the youngest-ever poet to perform at a presidential inauguration.

Something that we cannot emphasise enough is how important it is for children to read a variety of different texts in preparation for the 11 plus. Amanda Gorman, a Harvard scholar and the USA’s first National Youth Poet Laureate, captured the world’s attention on Wednesday. And in doing so, introduced a whole new generation to the power of poetry.

Her moving poem, The Hill We Climb, painted a picture of a deeply divided and wounded nation (following, among other things, the recent attack on the U.S. Capitol) – whilst also delivering a message of hope for the future:

We’ve braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace,
and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.
And yet, the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken,
but simply unfinished.

Amanda Gorman, The Hill We Climb.

For the reasons mentioned above, Wednesday 20th January was certainly a red-letter day: not only for democracy and progressiveness, but also for poetry! Thanks to Amanda Gorman, poetry is now firmly in the spotlight once more. What better time, then, to introduce children to the wonder of verse?

The power of poetry - some of our favourite anthologies to explore with children.

A 2018 study conducted by the National Literacy Trust found that almost 50% of young people respond extremely positively to poetry. They choose to read it in their free time, as well as listen, write, and even perform it.

If you are looking for some new forms of literature to explore with your child or tutee, here are some of Mentor Education’s favourite poetry anthologies.

Tiger Tiger Burning Bright by Fiona Waters and Britta Teckentrup

This magical collection, which was published in collaboration with the National Trust, includes an animal poem for every day of the year. It features works from classic poets including: William Blake, Ted Hughes, Grace Nichols, Lewis Carroll, Christina Rossetti, and Emily Dickinson. A really special, characterful selection that will not only introduce young readers to the magic of poetry, but also nurture a respect for the natural world.

A Poem For Every Day of the Year by Allie Esiri

If you hadn’t already guessed, we’re big fans of the ‘poem a day’ format, and this marvellous tome is no exception. Rather than animals, Esiri’s collection has been curated to reflect key dates: festive Christmas rhymes, humorous April Fool’s Day poems, and so on, creating an atmospheric world of poetry for children to delight in. Featuring respected heavyweights like T.S. Eliot, William Shakespeare and Seamus Heaney, this is the perfect book to dip into on a daily basis.

The Girl Who Became a Tree by Joseph Coelho

The Girl Who Became a Tree is lauded playwright and performance poet Joseph Coelho’s first novel in verse: a what a wonderful novel it is, with gorgeous illustrations by Kate Milner.

It is Coelho’s firm belief that ‘poetry is innate and belongs to everyone’, and this is demonstrated perfectly in The Girl Who Becomes a Tree, a highly accessible, humorous and engaging retelling of the Greek myth of Daphne (who, in order to escape the attentions of the god Apollo, prayed to her father – a river god – to turn her into a tree).

Poems to Perform by Julia Donaldson

This fantastic collection, which was collated by former children’s laureate Julia Donaldson, is an anthology with a twist: a selection of poetry that has been chosen to speak out loud. Perfect for introducing reticent readers and budding performers to the wonderful world of poetry, Poems to Perform features verse full of alliteration, powerful rhythms, engaging rhymes, and words that trip off the tongue. A great book to pick up of an evening and read aloud with your child.

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