If your kids are anything like ours, they could listen to you read books and stories to them pretty much all day long. And while we think that’s awesome (even if it is a little rough on our vocal chords), we sometimes need a break from all the once upon a times and happily ever afters.
Fortunately, there’s a really easy way to spice up your child’s ordinary reading and writing routine: poetry! Sprinkling some poems into your usual mix can keep reading time feeling fresh and fun for the entire family, while dramatically boosting your kid’s literacy skills at the same time. Here are three ways exploring poetry can benefit budding young readers:
Understanding the Sounds of Language: Poems frequently focus on the way words sound — highlighting qualities like rhyme, alliteration and syllable counts. By breaking down words into their individual components and hearing how they work together, children gain experience that will help them immensely as they begin to spell, read, and write.
Learning About Figurative Language: While most storybooks use words in a fairly straightforward manner — the moon is bright, the caterpillar was hungry, the peach tasted sweet — poetry tends to treat language in ways that are less literal and more complex. Reading poems introduces kids to figures of speech, such as similes and metaphors, which prepares them for more advanced reading challenges later on.
Developing a Love of Language: One of the best ways to help children become excellent readers is by making reading a whole lot of fun. And because so many poems for kids are designed to be playful, silly, and side-splittingly hilarious, they’re perfectly built to do just that!
So now that you know why you’d want to introduce your kids to poetry, how do you go about actually doing it? Do you have to buy them berets, teach them the stand-up bass, and let them hang around artsy cafés all day? While we have to admit that might do the trick, our answer is still “no”! There are much simpler ways to help your children start playing with poetry. And you can do it in just two steps:
First, read some poetry.
Second, write some poetry.
The first part is so easy, you’re probably already doing it without even trying. Many, many children’s books are written in a rhythmic, rhyming, poetic style. Think about any Dr. Seuss book you’ve read or a nursery rhyme you’ve recited!
In addition to those old standbys, you can also pick up some collections of amazing poetry for kids at your local library or bookstore. Shel Silverstein wrote classics like Where the Sidewalk Ends that you may remember from back when you were a kid, and poets like Kenn Nesbitt are doing that same for a new generation of readers with titles like The Armpit of Doom.
Once you’ve read enough to convince your kids that poems are pretty cool, it’s time to have them write some of their own. Below, we’ve listed a few especially fun and easy types of poetry that can get you and your little ones started. Do a quick Internet search, and you’ll see there are tons more you could try, too. So grab a pen and paper, put on your thinking caps, and get writing!
The traditional put-words-that-rhyme-at-the-end-of-the-line style of poem is perhaps the easiest way for kids to begin writing poetry. To make things even simpler, you can have them copy the structure of other poems they’re already familiar with, then just change some of the words.
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Everybody’s written a poem that begins like this
And now your kid can too
Haiku is a rigidly structured style of Japanese poetry that makes kids think about numbers just as much as letters. Each poem consists of a first line that always has five syllables, a second line that has seven syllables, and a third line with five syllables. Making all the words fit in an interesting way can be tricky, but it’s also simple enough that even young kids can practice clapping out syllables to put poems together.
Is this a poem
Or is it a math problem?
Either way, it’s fun!
Many poems paint a picture in your mind — but these poems form an actual picture right on the page!
Got some wild kids who like to play by their own rules? Free verse poems don’t have to rhyme, make shapes, or conform to any kind of structure at all.
Poems are good
for expressing emotions
I don’t want to
take a nap.
Have you and your kids written any amazing poetry yet? We’d love to see it in the comments!