Feb. 7, 2021: Children's Poetry
There is no denying that on Jan. 20th of this year, poetry joined our national consciousness. As a nation, we experienced poetry together. It uplifted and inspired us. It brought us to tears and smiles. We were witness to the power of this art form.
I have always had a love of poetry. As a teenager, I poured my suffering soul into poems that I wrote in notebooks. In college in the late 1970s, I studied the poems of Jack Kerouac, James Joyce, and Gertrude Stein. As an adult, I love reading a variety of poets and poetry types.
As a teacher/writer, I love helping my students to uncover the beauty of language through poetry, and uncover the hidden writer in their soul. Poetry is really a perfect conduit for teaching language and a love of words.
Children also seem to love poetry. While there are many reasons why any individual enjoys poetry, some of the reasons I hear repeated from my young students are:
- There are no rules in poetry
Most grammar and language rules do not apply to poetry, and for young writers, this is extremely freeing. That student who struggles to know when to start a new paragraph or how to avoid sentence fragments, does not have to worry about those things when creating poetry. Children love when rules can be ignored!
- There are no unnecessary words in poetry
The length of a poem is irrelevant to the message. This eliminates the struggle some young writers have with “writing enough”. It comes down to the most powerful and meaningful words. The extraneous is eliminated, and our thoughts are condensed down to the essential.
- As a reader, the text is often not as overwhelming as narrative writing
For many struggling readers and writers, the sheer volume of text on a page can be visually intimidating. But poetry typically has shorter lines, more frequent breaks, and simply takes up less of a page. While this may seem unimportant to us as adults, that visual of more page showing around the words can be so much more inviting for our budding readers and writers.
If, like much of the general public, you have not thought much about poetry, I challenge you to explore the art of the poem. Some of my favorite poets are Maya Angelou, Sylvia Plath, Dylan Thomas and Langston Hughes. However, if reading these poets seems a bit intimidating, start with poetry written for children, because like great children’s literature, children’s poetry has much for all of us.