Children and Poetry
I am constantly asked about poetry for children. What is there besides Shel Silverstein? My child loves to write poems, but where can he or she learn more about it? I am not a librarian, but I am more than happy to share a little of what I know is out there.
Let me begin by stating that children understand the essential elements of poetry much more than we realize. Babies learn to speak by repeating sounds, and they love to hear rhyme. Most children’s first words are repeated over and over again, they love listening to repetitive sounds. It also seems to delight their listening parents. Children quite literally play with sound. Even the most accomplished poets are doing the same thing in a more sophisticated way.
Have you ever taken a toddler by the hand and tried to walk a few blocks? They notice everything – the sound of every passing car or insect, the smell of Jessamine blooming on the neighbor’s fence, a coin shining on the sidewalk. Children’s senses inform them as the move through the world. This is exactly how poets experience the world too; which is why, when you read a poem, you can picture the images described or repeat a line over and over in your head, just to hear the sheer beauty of the sounds that the words make. These words, when strung together in a particular way, bring you joy. In some ways, it is that simple. Poetry must be enjoyed at this primal level. Children know and understand this without being told. Obviously, I am not talking about the subject or meaning of the poem. Adults need to understand that children must maintain this joyful feeling about language, if we want them to succeed as writers and readers in school and beyond. Poetry is a pretty easy way to maintain an essential appreciation of words and their meaning.
part of this entry was published in The Post & Courier in April 2011.