Children seem to have a natural love for the rhythm and rhyme of poetry. This usually begins with their first exposure to nursery rhymes and stories.
I’m a great advocate of sharing poetry with children for all sorts of reasons. Not least, because poetry can be fun and an easy connection with a young child. Poetry is a great starting point for discussion and right from a young age you can engage children in higher order thinking. Discussion around single words or phrases and of course, the poem as an entity is an obvious starting point.
Children enjoy being encouraged to look ‘behind the words’ for subtle meaning (s) and this not only adds to the experience but opens a lifelong interest and ability to dismantle text of all forms.
Someone once said poetry is ‘the best words in the best order’. Children learn quickly there are no rules for poetry and this boosts their confidence to express their own thinking via poetry. As children learn more about imagery, personification, onomatopoeia and the many other poetic devices their literary confidence grows. Poetry is a powerful way of increasing children’s love of language.
I would encourage all families to have poetry books in the house and share favourites with the children. Make poetry part of the mix of bedtime reading rituals.
I have enclosed below two poems. For older children, Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’ is an all-time classic and provides sage advice for us all. For some people this poem is an anchor in that they often return to it to give them strength.
The other poem is 'Forgiven' by A.A. Milne. This poem is for younger children. It has an appealing and strong storyline and the rhythm and rhyme is endearing. There are so many wonderful poetry books available but one of my favourites is Michael Rosen's, "The Kingfisher Book of Poetry". Do enjoy!
ForgivenI found a little beetle, so that beetle was his name,
And I called him Alexander and he answered just the same.
I put him in a matchbox, and I kept him all the day...
And Nanny let my beetle out
Yes, Nanny let my beetle out
She went and let my beetle out-
And beetle ran away.
She said she didn't mean it, and I never said she did,
She said she wanted matches, and she just took off the lid
She said that she was sorry, but it's difficult to catch
An excited sort of beetle you've mistaken for a match.
She said that she was sorry, and I really mustn't mind
As there's lots and lots of beetles which she's certain we could find
If we looked about the garden for the holes where beetles hid-
And we'd get another matchbox, and write BEETLE on the lid.
We went to all the places which a beetle might be near,
And we made the sort of noises which a beetle likes to hear,
And I saw a kind of something, and I gave a sort of shout:
"A beetle-house and Alexander Beetle coming out!"
It was Alexander Beetle I'm as certain as can be
And he had a sort of look as if he thought it might be ME,
And he had a kind of look as if he thought he ought to say:
"I'm very, very sorry that I tried to run away."
And Nanny's very sorry too, for you know what she did,
And she's writing ALEXANDER very blackly on the lid,
So Nan and me are friends, because it's difficult to catch
An excited Alexander you've mistaken for a match.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!