“This is Just to Say” by William Carlos Williams, by Jen W.


I know that lots of people think of literary analysis as a rhetoric stage skill. And mostly, it is. However, we can find messages in most books or stories. Even young children can find some of these basic messages without destroying their love of books, language or reading.

I read the poem “This is Just to Say” by William Carlos Williams to a group of second and third graders. It is a simple poem, and I thought the idea of temptation would be something that they could relate to. But, they quickly zeroed in on something in the poem that doesn’t even register with most adults.

The children quickly pointed out that the poet says, “Forgive me.” He doesn’t say, “I’m so sorry, will you forgive me?” He doesn’t even say, “It won’t happen again, I’m sorry.” His apology comes more in the form of a demand than a request or an entreaty. He doesn’t even seem contrite for his actions.

Their parents had taught them that when you offer an apology, it should be a request, and that you should be truly sorry for your actions. The fact that the kids could read these things into a simple poem shows that even kids who are quite young are capable of interpreting literature on some level.

Very basic literary analysis really just begins by asking your kids what they think about a book. Ask questions like: What part did you like best? What part did you like least? Were you worried when ____? You might be surprised at the answers that you receive.

This is Just to Say:


Jen Wjen_w.– Jen is born and bred Sooner who has spent twenty years following her military husband around the world. Jen started on her homeschooling journey when her eldest daughter learned to read at three years old, and she decided that she couldn’t screw up kindergarten that badly. That child is now a senior in high school, and they have both survived homeschooling throughout. Jen has two more children who are equally smart and have also homeschooled all along.