Ways to Encourage Kids to Love Poetry
Here are several ways to ensure that children continue to love poetry as they get older.
- Keep in mind that children have different tastes in poetry, and allow them to help you select the poems to share with the class. (Generally, avoid overly sentimental or abstract poems, which appeal more to adults.)
- Ask children to recite favorite poems that they have memorized. (Even then, they should be allowed to have the poem written on a card in case they get nervous and forget.)
- Encourage volunteers to share poetry they have written, and post poems only with children's permission.
- Ask children to respond to poetry, but avoid picking each line apart, which kills the listener's enjoyment.
- Occasionally analyze a component of a poem to demonstrate the poet's techniques, but avoid analyzing each stanza of each poem, which becomes drudgery.
- Allow listeners to express their own interpretations because a poem will mean something a little different to each listener.
- Share poetry regularly in small measures. Brief daily or weekly experiences with poetry are preferable to a monthlong unit, which makes children weary of the topic.
- Keep a variety of poetry books available at all times.
Have you ever thought of encouraging reluctant readers to read poetry? It is an excellent genre for children who have limited reading ability, or who simply do not like to read. The minimal amount of print on each page of poetry is not as overwhelming as a page of prose. Poet Janet S. Wong explains that "when they look at a poem of mine, a short poem, they see all that white space around it, and it's not intimidating. It doesn't scare them. They look at it and say, `That's only ten lines. I can read that' " (Yokota & Sanderson, 2000, p. 58). Wong tells of a thirteen-year-old girl who read one of her books of poetry in an hour. The girl's grandmother said it was the first time she had ever read a whole book.
In selecting poems for all children, look for those that involve a universal experience or message, written both on the emotional level and on the intellectual level of the listeners. As for the forms of poetry, children often say they prefer poems that rhyme. In particular, they like limericks, narrative poems, and lyric poems that are funny or about familiar experiences. It has been my experience that their least popular forms of poetry are unrhymed poems and haiku, as well as poems that are overly sentimental or abstract.
A list of books that children might enjoy follows.
© ______ 2006, Allyn & Bacon, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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