Kids and Poetry
Posted by Pam Jenkins on April 22nd, 2016
My earliest childhood memories of poetry begin with a kindergarten production focused on nursery rhymes. I held a candle and wore a flannel nightgown and nightcap while singing “Wee Willie Winkie,” then made a quick costume change backstage and returned for an over-the-top performance of “Little Miss Muffat.” I recall feeling proud that I had memorized my lines, and those of my classmates as well.
I had many other experiences throughout the years where memorizing and reciting poetry were required. While some of it seemed tedious at the time, I still enjoy and remember a good deal of it 40-plus years later – from Edward Lear’s whimsical “The Owl and the Pussycat” to John McCrae‘s somber “In Flanders Fields” and more.
Besides instilling a sense of pride and accomplishment in reciting poetry, and the simple enjoyment of the words, why share poetry with children?
Professor Sylvia M. Vardell, author of Poetry Aloud Here!, lists several reasons: “It introduces new vocabulary and figurative language. It reinforces word sounds, rhymes, and patterns. It provides examples of synonyms, antonyms, puns, wordplay, and coining of new words and expressions. It is rich in imagery, in seeing familiar things in new ways, and in sensory language, and it stimulates the imagination…
It is an important part of our literary and cultural heritage. Remember Beowulf? The Psalms? “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”? “Hold Fast to Dreams?” It is meant to be heard and thus provides practice for oral language development, listening, oral fluency, and choral reading and performing.
As children are growing in their knowledge of language and literature, poetry is just right for their developing minds and hearts. Poetry is primal: it speaks to a basic human need for expression …”
Vardell’s book includes this wonderful quote from poet Douglas Florian: “Reading poetry aloud connects us and collects us, heals us and reveals us, unites us and delights us in the wonder of words and all they can convey.”
Share some poetry with the young people in your life. Happy National Poetry Month!