A collection of poetry.
Book Review: ‘Falling Up’ by Shel Silverstein
‘Falling Up’ & Children
The title of this poetry book immediately suggests the quirky and eccentric feel which this book portrays from start to finish. Silverstein loves to test and defy the normal rules and regulations to ‘writing’ and his style is unique and thus encourages children to see that they too have the autonomy to be unique and creative in their writing also, something which too many classrooms forget to allow when teaching writing. I believe that there is no reason that children shouldn’t be allowed or even encouraged to put ‘themselves’ and any kind of creativity into their writing right from the word go. Realising this can only encourage an interest in writing for children, and hopefully devoid any fear or feelings of boredom they may hold towards literacy in general. This book is a fantastic book for children to have a chance to come into contact with, and Silverstein has recognised the importance of something as simple and unnoticed such as poetry, illustrated by his introductory poem which reads “If you are a dream, Come in, If you are a dreamer, A wisher, a liar, A hope-er, a pray-er, A magic bean buyer...”. It is full of entertaining, humorous, encapsulating poems which grip children from the start, make them laugh all the way through, and leave them with a new found curiosity and interest in the art of poetry. I think poetry is a brilliant portal for an effortless means of getting children interested in literacy, and this book, full of imaginative and creative poems, is a perfect example for doing just that. Many authors including Chall (1985) prise such things as rhyme and alliteration in developing a child’s phonological awareness, both from spoken language (hearing it from the teacher) or reading/attempting reading it themselves. Developing phonological awareness is critical for future reading ability, learning to read more quickly and able, and better comprehension of the text. And particularly in terms of comprehension of the text, I believe that Silverstein’s poems are so great that children quickly find themselves wanting to hear and understand the poems better, and this need to learn, encouraged by the poem’s enthralling and child-friendly content, can only have a positive effect on a child’s literacy development. All children love a story or poem involving school where the joke or difficulties is placed on the teacher rather than student, and Silverstein most frequently and successfully writes his poems from a child’s perspective, even more so getting through to the children, grabbing their attention, keeping their focus, and critically allows them to realise that there is a whole world of creativity in literacy which they may have never realised before. An example of this is his poem “Crazy Dream” in which he has a dream where all the teachers were the school kids, and he ‘laid down all the rules’ instead. A verse reads “I asked ‘em how many awful grades, Can cause how many tears? And if they got one answer wrong, I just hung ‘em up by their ears.” It is humour like this which most children can on some level, albeit perhaps silently, relate to and familiarise with, and Silverstein’s common method of shortening words such as ‘them’ to ‘em means development in reading skills is necessary to be able to read these poems alone, but also lets children realise that playing around with the English language is acceptable, and fun, particularly in poetry writing where the rules are mostly your own. I believe that even if children have only a love for poetry and not for reading more serious books, that this itself is a fantastic starting point which will hopefully only grow into a more developed, expansive love for reading and writing. Children love the illustrations in this book to look at also, so even for less proficient readers, this book is still a great form of entertainment and interest, and while a teacher reads out of this book to a class, children of all abilities love to see and laugh at the poem’s decorative pictures. And because of the wide spectrum of ideas and poems in this book, poems in ‘Falling Up’ is appropriate for both genders and ages from KS1 all the way to adulthood!
‘Falling Up’ & Adults
I believe that if adults, carers and teachers express a love for reading, then this passion will rub off on the children they interact with. And poetry, one of my favourite examples being Silverstein’s ‘Falling Up,’ does this to perfection. This book helps adults to realise that there is more to reading and writing than just being part of the curricula, that it is a portal for expressing creativity and individuality, emotions and ideas. I think if all adults were to realise this then this concept would be passed on to future generations and a collective love for reading and writing, which I’m afraid may be being lost in today’s modern world, will remain and potentially even grow. In addition to this, though Silverstein writes ultimately for children, his poems are also a great read for adults, never failing to provide humour. For example the poem ‘Remote-a-Dad’ reads “ You want him to dance? Push number five, You want him to sing? Push seven. You want him to raise your allowance a bit? You simply push eleven.” I believe this would always provoke at least a smile from an adult audience.
Falling Up in the Classroom
This book is a fantastic read for carpet time. There is such a wide variety of poems, with so many different themes and ideas, a teacher can select a poem daily and read it to his or her class, and the children will always be surprised, entertained and invigorated by the content. The poems are funny and clever, and sure to elicit at least some small interest in poem writing and want for reading development in children. So after hearing one or two poems, a great class activity would be to then suggest to the children to write their own poems, either of their own idea, or in theme with whichever poem they have just heard out of the huge variety. The illustrations are also of an extremely creative standard, so either by showing the children before or during the class-reading, or not showing them at all, either the reading or seeing the illustration may inspire the children to do a drawing alone or an illustration for the poem they have written. However, either for the beginning of the day, after lunch, or for a great end-of-the-day giggle, this book is a fantastic addition for every classroom and is sure to never disappoint.
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