Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour
Though the spelling and language may seem foreign, the above lines are from The Canterbury Tales, written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer around 1390. It’s an often hilarious poem frequently credited with popularizing English in written form. Since it begins with a line about April showers, it only seems right that April is designated as National Poetry Month, which is an excellent opportunity for parents to share the joys of poetry with their children.
Every kid probably starts out loving poetry from the first time they hear a Mother Goose nursery rhyme, and later, by reading The Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham. And yet, as they get older, many children seem to lose interest in poetry. As adults, we should do everything possible to change that.
- Poetry not only develops language skills, but also has rhythm and sounds that work together for more effective communication. Many of the world’s greatest speakers—Martin Luther King, Jr.; Winston Churchill; Franklin Roosevelt; Barak Obama—have a rhythm and musicality to their speech which increases the power of their message.
- Poetry breaks the rules. Kids don’t often have permission to disobey the rules of English, but poems can break away from sentence structure and can include made-up words, allowing kids a liberating means of expression. The loosening of rules is beneficial to English Language Learners, allowing them to express themselves outside of grammatical confinements.
- Poetry helps develop memorization skills in children. Older kids often have problems memorizing, whether its multiplication tables or the Gettysburg Address. Little kids, though, are able to memorize nursery rhymes almost as soon as they can talk. If you can keep kids memorizing poems as they get older, that skill will serve them well throughout their lives.
- Poetry teaches economy of language. By creating poems with a specific structure, like a sonnet, limerick, cinquain, or haiku, children have to think about each word, finding the most effective way to communicate their ideas, while staying within the poem’s strict form.
The worst thing to do is to make reading or memorizing poetry feel like a chore or like a punishment. There are apps available which will read poems to your kids on your phone or tablet. Or, you can find entertaining poems online for kids to read themselves.
With the school year coming to close next month, you may find yourself in the following situation:
The children are bored on their summer vacation,
And it’s too hot outdoors for outdoor recreation.
If you’re looking for something to fill up their time,
Have them start writing poems, with rhythm, with rhyme.
They can make up some words like their pal Dr. Seuss,
Words like snozzle and snoozle and snickertanoose.
Kids love writing poems, have them try it, you’ll see,
And it’s better for brains than smartphones or TV.
So celebrate poems! Hip, hip and hooray!
And make time each week for a Poetry Day.