I was therefore very disappointed to read an article from London's Evening Standard newspaper entitled "Schools scrapping classic poetry for 'lightweight' verse." British school inspectors checking poetry teaching in government-run primary schools found that only 8% earned an "outstanding" rating. Most teachers did not know enough about the subject to teach classic poems and instead focused on easier modern verse such as "On the Ning Nang Nong" by Spike Milligan:
On the Ning Nang Nong
Where the Cows go Bong!
and the monkeys all say BOO!
There's a Nong Nang Ning
Where the trees go Ping!
And the tea pots jibber jabber joo.
On the Nong Ning Nang
All the mice go Clang
And you just can't catch 'em when they do!
So it's Ning Nang Nong
Cows go Bong!
Nong Nang Ning
Trees go ping
Nong Ning Nang
The mice go Clang
What a noisy place to belong
is the Ning Nang Ning Nang Nong!!
Not exactly Shakespeare, is it?
While there is a place for modern poets such as Shel Silverstein or Jack Prelutsky in the curriculum, the primary focus should be on classic verse. Not just for cultural literacy purposes, but also because they typically demonstrate a higher-level vocabulary and structure than recent poems. A child simply gets more out of reading something that has not been "dumbed down".
In our homeschool, I'm planning to use the poetics series by Michael Clay Thompson published by Royal Fireworks Press. It looks like a good introduction to studying poetry using classic verse. I think we'll do a poetry unit in the spring with the Music of the Hemispheres book if DD appears to be ready at that point (it's so hard to predict with her).