We have written extensively on the advantages of reading aloud to children, but to celebrate World Poetry Day we wanted to focus on the particular benefits of sharing poetry with young ones.
First of all, it’s fun. Many adults have fond memories of having rhyming classics by Dr Seuss, Roald Dahl or A.A. Milne read to them, and it is wonderful to pass those treasured rhymes onto new generations. When you’re reading aloud, the lilting rhythm of rhyme provide an easy to follow structure and often plenty of laughs.
For kids, there are distinct differences about poetry that help language development. In Reading Magic, Mem Fox noted that rhyme in particular helps children learn to read because it gives them a clue in sounding out the words – they can work out the word ‘pop’ because they know it will rhyme with ‘hop’. She goes further: “Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know eight nursery rhymes by heart by the time they’re four years old, they’re usually among the best readers by the time they’re eight.”
Many kids’ books use rhyme and repetition to great effect but poetry is special. Poems are short and simple stories, also good for potential practicing readers, and are perfect for that ‘I want one more book before bed’ demand. Unlike picture books, poems in a collection tend to have less illustrations, encouraging a child to create their own visuals.
Although we have mainly considered poetry for primary schoolers, Andrew Simmons writes about poetry in high schools for The Atlantic, saying that poetry is ’emphasizing speaking and listening skills’ in a way that prose doesn’t quite match, and that ‘all forms of writing benefits from the powerful and concise phrases found in poems.’
We’ve selected some books of poems particularly for young readers here, but we would love to hear about your favourites in the comments below.
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