5 reasons why poetry is important for children to read (and write!)
Today (March 21st) is, as it happens, World Poetry Day, and it struck us at My Primary Tutor Headquarters that there was a good reason to write about poetry because, we are willing to bet, your child doesn't often have the chance to read or write it other than at school.
Poetry is a funny thing, because while most of us as adults will be able to recite a poem or two, it's not necessarily something we would choose to read. Put a fiction, non-fiction, and poetry book down in front of anyone, and we'd be pretty sure that almost no-one would choose to read a book of poetry for pleasure.
So - if we don't necessarily read poetry for pleasure, or to inform, why is it something which it's important for children to access? Here are our thoughts - with some of our favourite verses for added pleasure!
Poetry is an ancient form of expression and often speaks to our deeper selves.
Verse is one of the most ancient methods of storytelling. Before the written word was thought of our ancestors used verse to tell important stories, because the rhythms and patterns within it made it easier to memorise. Epics like the Odyssey began life as verse which was passed down through the generations - and were only ever written down much, much later.
Perhaps it is because of the way that verse is memorable and part of an ancient tradition that explains why we often turn to it in times of importance and emotion - weddings, christenings, and funerals. Poetry has a way of speaking to our deepest emotions (and allows poets to express them in a unique and creative way) and even if our children will never write a verse of their own, they deserve to understand how reading someone else's expression of emotion can speak to our own and help us to process and understand it.
[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in)]
By E.E. Cummings
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)i am never without it(anywhere i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done by only me is your doing,my darling) i fear no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true) and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you here is the deepest secret nobody knows (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows higher than soul can hope or mind can hide) and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
Writing and reading poetry is a great way of showing how impactful the choice of language can be.
Onomatopoeia, alliteration, personification, similes and metaphors - and how they can be put to use to create incredibly impactful imagery is demonstrated nowhere better than in poetry. By reading and writing their own, children can improve their prose writing too.
From a Railway Carriage
By R.L. Stevenson
Faster than fairies, faster than witches, Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches; And charging along like troops in a battle, All through the meadows the horses and cattle: All of the sights of the hill and the plain Fly as thick as driving rain; And ever again, in the wink of an eye, Painted stations whistle by.
Here is a child who clambers and scrambles, All by himself and gathering brambles; Here is a tramp who stands and gazes; And there is the green for stringing the daisies! Here is a cart run away in the road Lumping along with man and load; And here is a mill and there is a river; Each a glimpse and gone for ever!
Writing poetry encourages children to play with language
Poetry is one of the few places in formal written language where making up words and creating sentences that don't conform to rules is actually encouraged! There is something very freeing for children about this, and often they very much enjoy this aspect of writing and reading poems!
The Jabberwocky (an extract)
By Lewis Carroll
‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.
‘Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun The frumious Bandersnatch!’
Reading and responding to poetry encourages higher-order thinking skills.
The way that readers respond to poetry varies: the imagery can trigger different reactions and connotations for readers based on their own personal experiences. Because of this, there are often no ‘right answers’ when discussing poetry. So long as children can support their thoughts about poetry by referring to the text then they can offer a breadth of responses – frequently at the higher levels of thinking.
Now We Are Six
By A.A. Milne
When I was one,
I had just begun.
When I was two,
I was nearly new.
When I was three,
I was hardly me.
When I was four,
I was not much more.
When I was five,
I was just alive.
But now I am six,
I'm as clever as clever.
So I think I'll be six
now and forever.
Writing poetry encourages creative thinking
Jeanette Winterson said of poetry: "It isn’t a hiding place. It is a finding place.”
Poetry is one of the most creative forms of expression because it is so free-form! Writing it lets us get out our feelings and thoughts on a subject, while reading it encourages us to connect and find meaning in our experiences.
We can see then that poetry can be great for our children's social and emotional development too - often it can put into words something that a child cannot express, or allow a child to put something that they are feeling into words - onto paper and out of their heads. That is probably the most important reason of all to make sure that our children have access to a wide range of poetry as they grow and develop - they will continue to make use of poetry as adults, I can guarantee!
Finally...If you haven't shown your kids Michael Rosen reading his poem Chocolate Cake - give it a try. I guarantee they will LOVE IT!