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Poetry

Kids need poetry in their lives. Poems and songs have rhymes that help children learn. Think of the Alphabet Song or Thirty Days Hath September. It would be pretty hard for a young child to learn the 26 letters or the number of days in the 12 months by rote.

Children love to hear poems read to them. The rhymes of Mother Goose have been around a long time. The first known publication of a collection of nursery rhymes was in 1744 and the first confirmed collection of nursery rhymes using the term “Mother Goose” was published in 1780, although a collection of stories called “Mother Goose’s Tales” was published in 1729!

Parents and preschool teachers use little poems as teaching aids. I wrote a non-rhyming poem called Chewing Gum when my kids were small:

In your mouth,

Or in the trash.

But never in your hands!

I kept saying it, they kept repeating it. They quickly caught on and the incidence of gum on the furniture and in their hair dropped precipitously.

I still have a poem I laboriously printed when I was five titled “Sunset.” (Edited for punctuation)

Waves and waves of flame

Filling the sky with light.

Tis sunset! Tis sunset!

And soon it twill be night.

I totally agree with you. It is my masterpiece.

I use rhymes with my dog. Mindy thought the word, “Come!”meant don’t move, just stand there and look mischievous and wait for ME to come to her. Training techniques that worked for others did not work for us. When I called for her to come jump up on the sofa so I could put on her harness for a walk she just sat there until I went to get her. One day I said, “Uppity! Uppity! Uppity! Where’s my little puppity!” She immediately jumped up and has done so ever since, every time I recite my “Uppity” poem. Sometimes I vary the speed and recite “Uppity” very fast or very slow.

Seriously let me ask and then answer the question, Why should parents bring poetry into their children’s lives? My favorite answer comes from Gillian Jerome, author of “VERSE! Poetry for Young Children” and a University of Arizona Poetry Center Poet-in-Residence.

“Children have a natural affinity for poetry as their minds are rich with images, metaphors, and sounds. They are innate experts at picking up a rhythm, storing it their memories, and reciting it without a hitch. We all know how honest and uninhibited children can be, so we can’t take responsibility for the kinds of artistic explosions that may rock the foundations of your homes when you start reading and reciting poetry with your children. What can we say? Children love to play with words, and the more you invite an outpouring of creativity, the more children grow and respond with astounding intellect and feeling.”

Rhyming poetry not only helps children learn but it is also an early introduction to the arts. Poetry makes beauty out of words.

Here are some suggestions for introducing your children to the art of poetry.

• Start early using time-honored or made up rhymes. You don’t have to be a poet laureate to come up with, “Hannah, banana, banoo! Grandma and Grandpa love you!”
• Encourage your children to recite poems and make up poems of their own.
• Read poetry to your kids. Mother Goose still works and some editions have great illustrations. Take a look at “A Family of Poems” edited by Caroline Kennedy and “Rain Makes Applesauce” by Marvin Bileck and Julian Scheer. “Poetry Speaks to Children” edited by Elise Paschen comes with a CD of poets reading their own works. “From the Belly Button of the Moon and Other Summer Poems/Del Ombligo de la luna y otros poemas de verano” by Francisco Alarcon is a bilingual book of poems.
• Take your children to poetry readings for children at libraries and poetry centers.
• Encourage your children to memorize poems. We all have to exercise our brains as well as our bodies so play games with you reciting a poem you know, then the child. Offer suitable rewards ( a book) for longer memorized poems because it takes time and effort. But it gets the kids away from the TV and will help them in school. Yes, we have to teach children to think but they also need to know facts which means memorizing.
• Encourage your children to recite poetry with flair and drama and gestures. They need to be taught to speak loudly enough for the audience to hear, to project their voice not mumble, and to show by facial expression and body language that they are enjoying the art of poetry and want others to do so as well.

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