A Burgeoning Field or a Sorry State

U.S. Poetry for Children, 1800–Present

Authored by: Laura Apol , Janine L. Certo

Handbook of Research on Children’s and Young Adult Literature

Print publication date:  October  2010
Online publication date:  April  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415965057
eBook ISBN: 9780203843543
Adobe ISBN: 9781136913570


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Scholarly critical attention to children’s poetry waxes and wanes, but the poetry itself continues to flourish and evolve, continually open to innovations in form and the inclusion of new voices. Laura Apol and Janine Certo, both poets themselves as well as teacher educators, begin by working through what distinguishes children’s poetry as an art form in children’s lives, and then chart the history and critical reception of children’s poetry in the United States from 1800 to the present. Janet S. Wong, author of more than 20 books of poetry for children, talks about her poetic process, a process which includes thoughtful revision and careful attention both to personal detail and cultural sensitivity.

Since the days of the New England Primer (1687/1777), poetry for American children has occupied an ever-changing place in the world of children’s literature: It has been viewed as central to language learning and reading instruction, as a means of political and religious indoctrination, as a tool for Americanization and socialization, as a stepping stone to the “real” world of poetry for adults, and as a source of linguistic pleasure and subversive fun. Over the centuries, the debate over the health and status of poetry for children has swung between claims that it is either a burgeoning field or a sorry state—and sometimes, that it is both at the same time.

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