A interesting round-up of the conclusions of our Children & Poetry campaign
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We’ve had so much fun running our Children & Poetry campaign, speaking to poets and highlighting how we can help our children to take an interest in poetry. We contacted children’s poets and experts and asked them:
How can we encourage children to discover and embrace poetry for themselves?
And we had an amazing response. Everyone we asked was so keen to share their own thoughts and feelings on the issue, and everyone agreed that getting children involved in poetry was incredibly important. So to inspire and help us all achieve this goal, we thought that we would share some of the conclusions we reached.
The key is interweaving poetry into everyday life
Throughout this campaign we discovered that children naturally have a love of poetry. The hard part is taking the time to continue to nurture this love of poetry, even when life gets in the way. We’ve explored many tricks for doing this, from doing a poem a day, to making it fun. Let’s start with this recommendation from Eloise Greenfield, author of Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me.
Our task, I think, in encouraging this inherent attachment to language, is to establish rituals. The earlier we begin, the better, reading poetry aloud each day and moving the head, arms, legs and feet to poetic rhythms…The key is to interweave poetry into everyday life.
We must be the spark that ignites the flame
One thing which occured again and again in our campaign was the desire to inspire children to love poetry. Everyone felt the importance of this task, and everyone believed that we adults, be it teachers, parents, relatives, librarians, or friends, should be doing more to help children on this journey.
We, the adults, parents and teachers, with our own enthusiastic interest, should be the spark that ignites the flame for poetry in children at an early age.
Poems are child-sized
This issue might be important, but many poets were quick to point out that it shouldn’t be tough to get children engaged in poetry. A lot of the poets commented on how accessible poetry is for children, and how much they can enjoy it.
Rather like a supermarket tasting session that might tempt you to buy an entire packet of something, the poems you read to children are condensed morsels of flavour and delight to engage them.
Poetry can be one of the first steps for children to develop a love of reading both poetry and prose. Poems are often small, and can be hilariously funny, or can tap into deep emotions which children have difficulty expressing. It is not hard getting children to love poetry, the issue is often motivating the adults to be bothered to share it with them.
A poem a day
They say ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’. Well, a lot of our poets felt that reading or hearing a poem everyday might do the same thing in strengthening children’s relationship to poetry.
Here’s a simple thing. It’s what a big, urban primary school five miles down my road does. And every day. And in every class. The teacher will read a poem to the children to start the day.
This solution is very simple, and doesn’t even have to take up much time in the day. But introducing children to a poem everyday can have tremendous effects. Not only does it help them to become familiar with poetry, it also allows them to explore the types of poems which they like and don’t like.
Children sense enthusiasm
We can share a poem with children everyday, but it won’t be effective until we, adults, share the love of poetry that we are trying to impart on our children.
surround children with poetry just as we do songs. Children sense enthusiasm and learn to value the things we adults value and love.
Children can tell when we don’t care about something, but if we can bring our fun and passion into these interactions, then perhaps we’ll be able to foster a life-long love of poetry. We need to make it fun. Don’t treat it as a chore, but take the time to plan exciting ways of bringing poetry into children’s lives. Some of the poets we spoke to had fun activities to suggest.
One activity I like to do with my children is an entertaining game of making up a story or a poem together. I do a sentence or a verse, then they do one, and so on and so forth. It’s very fun to see what we come up with and it’s a great exercise for the imagination.
All the responses emphasise the importance of encouraging children to embrace poetry. Most people found that children are actually well on their way to becoming poetry lovers- we just need to help them to become familiar with it by surrounding them with it, and interweaving it into their daily lives. I hope you enjoyed our Children & Poetry campaign as much as we did.
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