We can tend to think of poetry as being outside of our normal interests. And we can assume that poetry is boring or inaccessible, especially for children. But with April being National Poetry Month, it’s a good time to evaluate these assumptions about poetry and its place in our reading repertoire. And kids can especially enjoy and benefit from poetry. So during this National Poetry Month, let’s consider adding a little more poetry to our lives.
Poetry is for kids too
The rhyming nature of poetry can appeal to children in the same way as a well rhythmed song. And we expose our kids to a type of poetry without even thinking about it when we teach them nursery rhymes. Nursery rhymes are rhythmic and rhyming, telling a story or teaching a lesson in a memorable way. They are poems, and they are usually the earliest poems that our children are exposed to.
And we know our children’s minds hold onto these nursery rhymes. So why not go beyond simple nursery rhymes and consider other ways to add poetry to our children’s lives?
Lots of good benefits from poetry
When we read poetry to our little ones, the cadence and rhythm of the words really engages their minds. Reading poetry to them is another great way to develop a love for reading and for words in general. This love for words can develop before kids can even understand what the words mean. And having a love for these words can motivate kids in their language development. Enjoying words pushes our kids to want to learn to say them and to understand their meaning.
Poetry helps our kids with language development in other ways too. Hearing, and eventually reading, poetry exposes our kids to different words that we may not use in everyday life. And so it expands their vocabulary. It also gives them practice in figuring out what a word means by how it fits into the narrative around it. Then there’s the rhythm of poetry, again, which helps our kids in their own expression of words. No, they won’t walk around sounding like a sing-songy nursery rhyme. It just helps with general wording and expression. It is, however, fun to hear them make up their own little rhymes, and these rhymes become more advanced as they grow.
There is also a mental benefit to memorizing poetry. Any memory work is a valuable mental practice. And poetry makes it a little easier with its rhythm and rhyme. Memorizing easy poems leads to memorizing longer, more difficult poems. This practice increases our memory skills for more difficult memory work without rhythm or rhyme. It keeps our minds sharper, and that is a great reason to add a little more poetry to our lives.
Finally, poetry inspires our kids to live by the values that it expresses. Many poems teach a character quality or some kind of lesson. They tend to inspire compassion, confidence, love, friendship, or bravery. These values stick with our kids and teach them in a different way than our straightforward lessons can.
My youngest really does love poetry. Last summer, I found a bug in her room, and since it was the kind of bug that smells really bad when you squish it, I flushed it down the toilet instead. My daughter was so upset with me for not taking it outside, and she chided me for my lack of compassion. She dramatically stated, “You need to read more poetry!”
How to find children’s poetry
We’ve already looked at nursery rhymes as our earliest introduction to poetry. After nursery rhymes, there are several versions of children’s poetry collections. A Child’s Book of Verses is by Robert Louis Stevenson, or there are similarly titled books with collections of poetry for children. You can ask your librarian for suggestions or search for children’s poetry books online and look for one that looks like it will work for your family.
You can also introduce them to other classic poets like Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and even Shakespeare. Many classic poets have simple poems that children can understand, enjoy, and memorize.
And there are several more modern children’s poets too, some of whom there are controversies around. Dr. Suess, Shel Silverstein, and Jack Prelutsky are more modern poets who are brilliant in their children’s poetry, despite some of their mention in more current controversies over some of their messages. Their messages are things that we can discuss with our kids, just as we should do with anything we read to our kids or allow our kids to read. And we can choose not to read any author or poet if we decide their messages do not line up with our own. These are choices that are up to each of us as parents.
My Signing Time
Our Signing Time Dictionary is full of words we can use as we add a little more poetry to our lives. A good place to start could be with the signs for word or for read. There is also the section on animals, the section on colors, and the section on nature.
And at My Signing Time, in our classic Signing Time shows, we have lots of songs. And songs are poetry too, right? You can find Signing Time Classic here, and you can access all of the My Signing Time content with a My Signing Time digital subscription. Try it out with a 14-day free trial here.