Words worth memorizing

Here you will texts that our family has memorized together. In 2019, when my children were 6 and 9, we finally started memorizing and working on recitations. Before that, I hadn’t really known how to do this. It seemed … mysterious.

What finally compelled me to begin was listening to a podcast about memorization work that talked about what happens when we memorize a text — we take it inside ourselves and have access to its language in an intimate way. The words themselves; the cadence of the lines; the messages — these become part of us.

Religious families of course have their children memorize scripture for this reason. Our family’s faith practices are rather eclectic and lean toward agnosticism in beliefs, but we love poetry. And words in general. Almost every year since my husband and I were married in 2000, we have included a favorite poem in our annual winter card to friends and family. What would it be like if we got to know these poems — and others — even better?

So, I pulled together some of our long-time favorites and we began memorizing all together after dinner each night. It turns out that it’s not that mysterious or difficult! We simply add two or so more lines each night to what we’ve already learned. We begin by reviewing the earlier parts of the poem, each of us taking turns either reciting or holding the poem itself (I put the poems we are learning and have learned in a little three-ring binder so they’re easily accessible). Then we learn two more lines: one person reads each line aloud, and we repeat. We do regularly revisit older poems too, in order to keep them in our mind.

The experience has been so fulfilling. There’s something amazing about hearing our children recite, from memory, the eloquent wise words of our favorite poets and writers. And, I love having these words in my heart too!

In time, we hope to work up to much longer pieces, including quotes and speeches. What I’ve recorded here are the texts we’ve memorized, in order that we chose them. While I think this is a fabulous collection because it’s meaningful to me, I encourage each family to find texts that are meaningful to them, whether that be holy words from their faith tradition or favorite poems.