I’m convinced that children are made for poetry. They are geared toward finding delight in the everyday, infuse common objects with magic and are hard-wired for play. And so much of poetry is indeed playful.
Literacy experts tell us that teaching children the joys of playing with language will help set them on the path to becoming confident readers, and poetry is a great tool for encouraging children to enjoy the sounds of words. Poems emphasize the rhythm of language and the ways individual sounds make up words. In “Reading Magic,” author Mem Fox argues, “Rhymers will be readers. It’s that simple. Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know 8 nursery rhymes by heart by the time they are 4 years old, they are usually among the best readers by the time they are 8.”
Not all poetry rhymes, of course, but reading non-rhyming poems can also benefit children. Poems often introduce new vocabulary through unusual or interesting word choices, and rich visual imagery can stimulate a child’s imagination, spurring them to see the world around them in a new way.
April is National Poetry Month, and April 18 in particular is Poem in Your Pocket Day. Encourage the kids in your life to choose a favorite poem, copy it on a piece of paper, and then share it throughout the day. Celebrate further by exploring books of poetry together. Your library has a number of poems for children, both in picture books that illustrate a single poem and in anthologies. Check out our catalog list of recommended poetry for children, and if you have a favorite poem, please share it in the comments!