Caroline Kennedy's Poems for Kids

Poetry was an integral part of the culture of the Kennedy family.

Caroline Kennedy remembers that she and her brother John F. Kennedy Jr. would copy classic poems for gifts for their grandparents on the holidays.

"I think poetry can really bring families together," said Caroline Kennedy, the oldest child of President Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

"There is something about parents reading poetry to their children that is really magical. And I've chosen poems that meant a lot to me and my family and that other people have told me meant a lot to their families," she said.

Kennedy shares some of her memories and her family's favorite poetry in her new book, "A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children," a follow-up to another book, "The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis."

The family is closely associated with poetry. President Kennedy loved the work of Robert Frost, who recited the poem "The Gift Outright" at the president's inauguration. Kennedy recalls her grandmother dramatically reciting "The Ride of Paul Revere," and said that she was often called upon to recite Frost poems as a child.

Fond Memories

"Careless Willie," one of the poems Kennedy included in the book, was a favorite of her brother John, who was killed with his wife, Carolyn Bissette Kennedy, and Carolyn's sister in a plane crash in 1999. She read an excerpt of the poem on "Good Morning America" today.

"Willie with a thirst for gore, nailed his sister to the door," she read. "Mother said with humor quaint: 'Careful Willie don't scratch the paint.'"

"I came across this in the scrapbook, and I laughed so hard," Kennedy said.

Many of the poems are silly, but Kennedy said she also included poems that dealt with serious emotions and issues. She included poems by famous bards such as E.E. Cummings, William Butler Yeats, Langston Hughes, and Seamus Heaney.

"I think children really do think about the big emotions and the big questions, whether it's faith or loss or joy," Kennedy said. "I think these poems really allow you to connect to those feelings in a direct, emotional way, but they express them better."

Poetry's Rebirth

Kennedy hopes that poetry is on the verge of resurgence in popularity, especially among children.

"Poetry can say things about the big issues of life, and it makes us interested in these things in unique ways," Kennedy said. "I think kids can handle these things and as they grow older and more sophisticated, I think they'll understand more of the layers of these great poems."

Kennedy hopes to pass on her family's love of poetry to today's children.

She said she had noticed a new appreciation for the power of words and poetry largely because rap music and hip-hop culture had breathed new life into the "spoken word" poetic tradition of the 1960s with offshoots like "poetry slams" and HBO's series "Def Poetry."

"They realize that words have power and the ability to really capture experience and express it unique ways is a wonderful art form," she said. "I think it really helps poetry."

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