Remember how much you loved poetry as a child? The songs, the nursery rhymes, the rhythm and meter of sing-songy poetry that engrained itself in your brain and that you can still recall to this day?
Poetry is powerful, and in the Montessori classroom, that power is recognized.
Poetry Speaks, a large volume of classics encased in a beautiful hard cover and containing cds featuring the poets themselves reciting their own poetry, has been a bestseller for years. The child-friendly version, Poetry Speaks to Children, is a must-have to introduce pre-schoolers to the world of language. Featuring famous writers such as Langston Hughes and Ogden Nash, the book engages young ones by tapping into their inherent desire for rhyme and rhythm. Recited repeatedly, the poems are easy to memorize and give children a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Take this a step further by watching YouTube videos of other children reciting poetry, and your kids will be extra motivated to do the same. Aside from the joy of discovering sounds and the entertainment value found in songs and poetry, it turns out that early exposure to this form of literature is crucial to later reading success.
“When children from six months to six years are exposed to the various sounds and rhymes awash in children’s literature, they are better prepared for the task of decoding the words in text when they begin to read,” explained Maryann Wolff and Stephanie Gottwald, researchers specializing in literacy.
So what can you do at home to make poetry part of your child’s life? It can be as simple as enjoying a Poem of the Week! Choose a fun, easy poem appropriate to your child’s readiness level. Read the poem aloud several times, then encourage your child to join in whenever he recognizes a word or phrase. Create a Poetry Basket containing the items mentioned in the poem. This can include found items or ones you make yourself. As you continue to read the poem aloud throughout the week, point to or have your child select the corresponding items in the basket. Now your child is making word, sound, and visual connections, all key to becoming a future reader.
The beauty of poetry is that you and your children can evolve from very simple to quite complex selections as they mature and grow in their intellectual abilities. You can change poetry selections based on seasons and holidays, and you can even create a unit of study that contains poetry applicable to a theme, such as the ocean or wildlife. Your child’s birthday month is a special time to explore poetry all about your child, at first written by you, and eventually by your child! Because poetry varies wildly in form and format, you’ll never face boredom or redundancy. Each time you explore a new poem, you will open your child to a new world of sound and language that will entertain and delight.
There’s a reason why nursery rhymes have been around for centuries. Parents recognize the value in these early forms of literature. Reading creates a natural time of bonding and a shared experience children will treasure forever. So don’t hesitate to introduce your children to poetry and take every opportunity to expand their world of language.