The Power of Poetry: How Poetry Can Shape a Child as a Reader

Poetry books were never at the top of my reading pile as a child or young adult. It wasn’t until I began learning how to teach it to my learners that I realised how fun it can be.

Language is built on poetry 

Believe it or not, we all developed our language skills with a love of poetry.

You’ll probably have noticed that many children’s picture books adopt some sort of rhyme throughout. This is one of the reasons I love/am a little obsessed with Julia Donaldson. Her lyrical and rhyming verse is renowned and loved by millions. Which is why she was the bestselling author of the previous decade. To put that into context, in the UK, a Julia Donaldson book is sold every 11 seconds!

How does poetry help your child to read?

Picture books aside, rhythmic language is what helps your child to remember sound blends, learn new language and discover how to play with words. Unfortunately, much of that playfulness is lost in their later years of schooling as poetry is turned into something that must be studied and analysed. This is enough to put anyone off poetry (myself included)!

Whilst there’s a place for the practicalities of phonics and learning the rules of language, reading, and writing poetry allows your child to explore its possibilities without any limits.

Not only that but poetry can help with:

  • Spellings – children with a good awareness of rhyme tend to become better readers and spellers.
  • Speech and language – playing with sounds and rhyming patterns can support development of essential vocal skills.
  • Reading fluency – tunes and patterns of poems naturally make children’s reading more fluent, making poetry an excellent choice for reluctant readers!
  • Expressing opinions – think of poems like paintings. They’re a finished piece but can be interpreted in multiple ways. There’s no right or wrong answer or interpretation!
  • Inspiring creativity – as poetry tends to be short form writing. Your child must be very considered in their word choices and can lead to expressive outcomes.
  • Emotional literacy – lots of children’s poetry is fun and light-hearted but some can be more challenging and emotional which can open up interesting discussions around feelings.
No one is expecting you or your child to recite Shakespeare’s sonnets to one another. But, there’s lots of opportunities to incorporate poetry in the home:
  • Word tennis. One of you says a word and the next person has to reply with a word that rhymes with it, e.g. mat, hat, cat, pat etc. Try to avoid the tricky ones like orange or asparagus!
  • Listen to your favourite music. There’s a reason we’re able to remember the lyrics to songs we listened to as children and the secret is in the rhyme. Tune in, spot the rhymes, and sing along (hopefully you have very understanding neighbours)!
  • Remember poetry doesn’t have to rhyme. Writing poetry is actually a great way for children to express themselves. They don’t have to follow conventional grammar or spelling rules and can literally put everything in their head onto the page.
  • Acrostic poems. This is a great way to make writing poetry more structured but still revolved around their favourite topic or thing. So, if your child loves ‘flowers’, get them to write each letter vertically down the page and then start each line with the corresponding letter (Flowers fill the air with lovely smells, Lilies float on top of ponds etc.).
  • Share poetry as a family. Some of my favourite poetry books are Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl, Poems to Perform by Julia Donaldson, The Rainmaker Danced by John Agard and 101 Poems for Children by Carol Ann Duffy.
Why does poetry matter?

Poetry isn’t scary. It’s everywhere and helps your child to read. Poetry is incredibly shareable and is created to be enjoyed. One of the best things about poems is that they’re available to be picked up at any point in the book and can be read entirely independently.

Learning to read can be really hard work. Poetry offers a very special secret sauce that makes language and reading fun. Not only this but they’re short form means that it requires little from their attention. It’s this short narrative that means the words and topic is immediately engaging and creative for your child.

Your child is naturally curious and poetry is an excellent way to inspire wonder and enchantment, as well as harness the power of reading

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