by Stacey Loscalzo
Children who grow up hearing the rhythm of Mother Goose have brains that are primed to learn and love poetry. The cadence of these rhymes is beneficial for brain development. Read these rhymes from books but also recite them by heart when you are driving, changing diapers or when you are nursing. The more babies hear these rhymes, the better.
Make up your own nonsense rhymes and poems throughout the day. Use rhyme as a way to get children to finish simple daily tasks. Children can happily put on their coats if you say something silly like, “I think I see a goat, why don’t you go put on your coat?” Allow young children to be poets by leaving off a word of a familiar rhyme and asking to them to complete the sentence. For example, say “Jack and Jill went up the...” and then pause. Giving children the chance to be successful with this simple game is great for pre-literacy skills.
Children do what we do, not what we say. If children realize that we are reading poetry for fun, they will be more inclined to do so. If Emily Dickinson is not your style, investigate more current poets like Mary Oliver, or try the musings of Samantha Reynolds at bentlily.com, a mom who vowed to write one poem a day every day during her baby’s first year.
Print out lyrics to your children’s favorite songs to give them the chance to appreciate the poetry in the printed words that they often hear sung. Realizing that they have memorized the lyrics to their favorite songs may motivate them to recite a printed poem from memory as well.
Make a point to go to that section, pull books from the shelf and lay them on the floor. Chose a few to bring home.
Read poems about birthdays on your children’s birthdays. Find poetry collections about Halloween, Christmas and the last day of school. Write simple poems yourself and give them to your kids as small gifts. For example, you could write a poem on a napkin and put it in a lunch box. The more children associate poetry with fun, the more fun it will be.
During long car rides or tedious waits at the doctor’s office, use the time to write a poem. Begin with one line, ask your child to give the next line and so on. By talking about poetry in this way, it can become a game. This is also a great opportunity to point out that poems can rhyme or not, depending on the preference of the poet.
Children don’t need to dust off old poetry anthologies to enjoy poems. Try a few of these current resources. Every day in April, Greg Pincus posts a previously unpublished poem by a well-known poet at his website, gottabook.com. Or check out Poetry Tag Time, a Kindle book created by Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell. This unique collection provides a view into the minds of poets while also inspiring children to write their own poetry.