When I was a child, I loved poetry. My book of A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson was a cherished possession; I still have my copy, tattered and torn, but, nevertheless, readable. As a child, I would recite my favorite verses again and again, and, as an adult, can still recite at least the opening lines – I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me. What can be the worth of him is more than I can see….The moon has a face like the clock in the hall; she shines on thieves on the garden wall, and I can recite even one complete poem from the collection – When I am grown to a man’s estate, I shall be proud and great. And tell the other girls and boys, not to mettle with my toys.”
Like most children, I loved the rhythm and rhyme of poetry and the feeling of dancing through words. Poetry is a form of expression that we all seem to love as children. Children respond to the joy, the emotion, the meaning and most of all, the fun of poetry. Research tells us that poems are not only fun for children, but they are important for language and cognitive development as well as social, emotional and physical development.
Poetry is closely linked with recognizing patterns both audibly and visually – that is, through both listening to the sound of poems being read and through reading them on the printed page. As children listen to the repeated patterns, they learn to anticipate the rhyming word, an important reading prediction skill. By producing sounds and beats, poems allow even very young children to experience language on a less cognitive and more emotional level. Some studies also show that poetry contributes to children’s capacity to experience and understand emotions. Clapping, turning around, hands up in the air – many poems and rhymes inspire simple, fun physical movement, much like music.
Mother Goose nursery rhymes are some of the earliest verses children learn to recite. The patterns, sounds and rhythms of the verses make them easy to remember and fun to repeat. Picture books and early readers often make use of rhyme. The wonderful Theodor Geisel understood the importance of rhyme; read any of his Dr. Seuss books to enter his occasionally wacky rhyming world. He also wrote, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” It wasn’t simply his words and wisdom that were important, it was also the rhyme. As children become independent readers, they discover the poetry of Shel Silverstein (Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic), Roald Dahl (Revolting Rhymes), Edward Lear (The Owl and the Pussy Cat), and Lewis Carroll (Jabberwocky) among many, many others.
April is National Poetry Month and we’re celebrating children’s poetry at the library. We invite you to browse through our children’s poetry collection and discover the enchantment that poetry brings to childhood. What is your favorite poem? Do you have a childhood favorite? Share it with us on our Facebook page this April.