Saturday, April 12, 2014

You Love Poets And You Don't Even Know It!

Poetry is only for serious, deep thinkers who are intellectuals pondering the meaning of life. Raise your hand if you believe that this statement is true. Ah, what a misleading idea which tends to lead to missed opportunities for fun exploration of words, reading and sometimes, humor. One of the best "remedy" for slow or reluctant readers is helping them discover the joy of poetry. Poetry is often thought of as serious artistic writing meant to be enjoyed by romantics, philosophers and English majors who delve into the meanings behind the words. Sure stuffy English professors and even graduates will sometimes snuff out the joy of poetry. It doesn't have to be that way, especially for children. Sid Silverstein, Jack Prelusky, Maurice Sendak and other wonderful writers/poets proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that poetry is perfect for children. Their quirky, delightful stanzas drew readers into a world that children would have never dared to enter before. What was once thought of as stuffy now became cool and even humorous. What is even more astonishing is watching a child who has struggled with reading suddenly getting the "knack" of the flow and rhythm of sentences. It's as if a key had been given to them to unlock the secret to becoming a successful reader. Why would poetry would be such a powerful too to reading improvement? Consider this, rhyming, songs and music are some of the first encounters children have with language. Lullabies, nursery rhymes, and even jump rope games are familiar to every child in their development years. They instinctively draw to them without realizing that what they are enjoying is good poetry. As librarians and educators this is a golden opportunity to lure reluctant readers into books. The short bursts of words that tell a story, a joke or describe a feeling is just enough to encourage reading one more stanza, one more page and even finish a book. Poetry can also be an effective tool to teach important concepts, such as imagery, historical facts or memorization tools. Sendak's Chicken Soup and Rice is a perfect example of teaching a basic skill, recognizing the months of the year, by using poetry. Sendak's rhyme are delightful and if you are lucky enough you may find a version of the book that is put to music that makes his poetic classic even better. (If that were even possible.) As children get older, poems can become a useful tool in learning about historical events that are worth remembering. "In 1492, Columbus sailed the Ocean blue" Another classic, which is definitely for the older readers, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere. In this poem the reader is reminded of the dramatic historic ride that was a pivotal point in American's young history. With the use of poetry, readers who once may have had no interest in learning dates or the significance behind them have now found a "helpful" hint in remembering important facts. It's no secret that librarians will find any clever (and sneaky) way to lure readers into the world of books. After all, it is our world that we are inviting them to visit. A world without books is a dreadful place that librarians don't even want to imagine. Without books there would be no libraries. Without authors who are talented in telling stories, whether in prose or poetry, life would indeed be bleak. Children need the stories to grow and develop into great readers and critical thinkers. Share a poem today, in honor of poetry month, which is April in case you hadn't guessed by now. Seriously, its a great way to share a smile, even if it's just for a short while.
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