I bought Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends years ago at a school book fair when I read somewhere that the best way to help your child learn to read and love to read is to recite poetry to them while they're young. It seemed like odd advice, but I was desperate and willing to pluck hairs and burn wax if I had to. Apparently the magic is somewhere in the way repetitive rhymes bend the brain.
It was worth a shot, I had read a lot of Dr. Suess and Mother Goose to my daughter and she was a reader, but my boys had come into this world on top of each other and I'd spent most of their childhood on my knees changing diapers and sending pleas for patience to the big man upstairs.
So I bought Shel Silverstein because they were past the Mother Goose years and because I had chuckled over it myself as a child. For some time I read it to them each night as they'd drift off to sleep with visions of similes and metaphors dancing in their heads.
Okay, that's a lie. I'd read it to them as they were smacking each other, giggling, crying (oh, wait, that was me) bouncing on the beds and begging me to let them sleep with the radio on. After several deep inhalations and interuptions I'd finish a poem and snap the book shut. What'd ya think? I would say. Thoughtful pause. Can I have a drink of water?
So that was that. Reading poetry was a sham, I decided. But last night I tucked them in, in characteristically grumpy fashion, and one of them said, Will you read something to us? They were holding up Shel Silverstein. Not tonight I said, I'm too tired. (Bad mom, I know!) Maybe Wyatt can read Shel Silverstein to you. And this is where my jaw hit the floor. Okay, he said, Zach read it last night, so I'll read it tonight.
Wait, what? They were reading behind my back? Poetry? Words? Books? Yes, they said. We read when you're not looking. We crack open Shel Silverstein and we actually read him. What was your favorite poem? I asked Zach, still skeptical. The one about the beard, he said without hesitation and then they all started chuckling and high fiving each other while they recited the funniest parts of the beard poem.
It was a hallelujah moment! All you worried, tired, anxious moms, go put Shel Silverstein on your book list.