Whether poignant or silly, poetry can reach children in a particularly powerful way. With its rhymes and dynamic imagery, it makes the reading experience joyful; sometimes more can be said and expressed in 8-10 lines than in an entire novel. In Langston Hughes’ poem ‘Dreams’, in eight short, profound lines, the life-sustaining power of dreams is captured stirringly by first comparing a life without dreams to that of the suffering filled one of a broken-winged bird, and then, to a barren field. It’s metaphorical images are soul-awakening – a compelling way to inspire children to hold on to their dreams and passions.
Consider Shel Silverstein’s ‘The Romance’- it is silly and heartfelt in equal measures. In twelve fantastical lines, it manages to say more about the inexplicability of love and the passion of romance than some novels do.
Poems nurture children’s creativity and imagination in a way few other forms of literary works do. Think of poetry as a white canvas and the words the colours. It provides a space for children’s imagination to experiment with possibilities. When we write a poem, anything is possible; there are no mistakes, no errors, and the child is free to break the rules of grammar along the way. Writing this way, the child is able to write freely, play with words, take risks, and just see what happens. It’s a writing that is fueled by wonder and a sense of adventure!
Moreover, using metaphors, similes, symbolism, and other forms of figurative language, the child is able to use language to serve a deeper internal purpose – give voice to part of themselves they are not ready to share, or help perceive an experience in an entirely new way.
Hence, we need to create more space for poetry in the lives of today’s children.
How to motivate children into reading poetry
- You could give them a few words to play with. Have them write a few lines of poetry and have them introduce new rhyming words.
- Stick magnetic words on the Fridge in a jumble. Have them rearrange as many of those words into a poem.
- Choose a familiar poem and provide them with art supplies so that they may recreate the poem as an image.
- Have them memorize a favourite poem and recite it during family time.
- You have probably been reading bedtime stories to your children. Have you thought of reading poetry to them?
Some poems that we feel are a MUST- read for children.
- A. A. Milne’s ‘Buckingham Palace’ would work very well with preschool children with each stanza starting with two repetitive lines. Buckingham Palace lends itself to illustrations, memorizing, and imagination.
- Edward Lear’s The Owl and the Pussycat: Sounds familiar? This is a wonderful poem that will paint a colourful picture of the boat, the sea, and stars, in their minds.
- Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘From a Railway Carriage’ – it will keep children at the edge of their seat right from the first word. It’s filled with vivid imagery, as well as a sense of speed that is sure to enthrall children.