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7 ways to encourage a love of poetry in children

Written by by Charlotte Hacking of CLIPPA

Poetry provides the gateway for so many young readers and writers in their journey towards becoming literate; delighting, supporting and engaging children as they build a love of literature. This year’s CLiPPA shortlist provides an excellent range of the best quality poetry for children of all ages. There are examples that will spark joy in the very youngest readers, and collections that offer depth for reflection and inspiration, as children grow into young adults.

The award exists to celebrate the best of children’s poetry in all its forms, showcasing the very best of children’s poetry and the artists that create it. But, how do we support children to see what poetry offers to them? These important aspects will help you engender a love of poetry in young readers of all ages…

Get to know a wide range of children’s poetry:

The most important thing is that we make time for poetry, make it available in the literature we offer to children and don’t allow it to be marginalised. If we, as adults, have negative attitudes or are hesitant or fearful about poetry, this can be easily passed on to children. And, if we don’t know what poetry is out there, we’re not able to share and recommend it. Use the CLiPPA shortlist to keep up to date on the best new children’s poetry, as well as recommendations from organisations like National Poetry Day to ensure you provide a range of poetry that will delight and inspire the young readers in your life.

Make poetry visible and accessible to children:

One of the joys of poetry is that you don’t have to read a complete collection in one sitting. You can dip in and out, share a poem and let it linger, talk about a poem, perform it and let it live within you. Ensure poetry of all kinds is a prominent part of children’s reading experience. Take time to drop poems into the day, without any agenda to analyse or answer questions about them. Paper a room with poetry from different poets and times, sharing different styles and forms and give children time to browse, discuss and select poems that resonate with them.

Allow time for children to listen to poetry being performed:

The best way to help children to become comfortable with poetry is to make sure they hear a wide range of poetry, as often as possible. Allow time for children to watch or hear poets performing their work, either recorded or live. It is important to hear and feel the distinct rhythms of different voices and dialects, considering what this adds to our own interpretations of poetry. Videos and audio performances of poets performing are a fantastic inspiration for children’s own performances. You can find a wealth of video performances from a wide range of children’s poets from the Poetry section of CLPE’s website. The Children’s Poetry Archive also has a superb selection of audio recordings of children’s poets performing their work, including a dedicated CLiPPA collection.

Make time to talk about poems you have read:

After reading poetry or hearing it performed, give children time to reflect on and enjoy the poems with no pre-conceived agenda to mine it for language or techniques or answer questions about it. Think first about what a poem makes you think about or how it makes you feel. Some poems will be laugh out loud funny, some will take us inside a moment that we’ll want to walk around and enjoy, others may reflect moments and events in our own lives, which we might want to share or use to make sense of personal experiences. The important thing is not to think that a poem is a puzzle to be solved, it will mean different things to different people, depending on what experiences they bring to the poem as a reader. Different children will like and dislike different kinds of poetry, so providing a range of different types of poetry so that children can see what it offers them and giving time to discuss responses and preferences after reading is key.

Encourage children to perform poetry themselves:

Poetry is rooted in word games, wordplay, song and rhythm, and it is particularly important that it should be heard as well as read. Children need to feel the joy in reading poetry aloud themselves, joining in, dramatising and performing poems. Allowing children to work up performances of poems is a fantastic way of improving reading fluency, encouraging children to read and re-read, note how the punctuation guides reading and work out where to pause to enhance the emotion and meaning. Investigate and plan opportunities for children to perform publicly at school or public events or as part of competitions like the CLiPPA shadowing scheme or Poetry by Heart.

Allow children to respond to poems read in creative ways:

Poems shared can provoke a range of creative ideas and expressions. You may be inspired to produce a piece of art in response to a poem. You may wish to listen to or create a piece of music that evokes similar feelings to a poem. You may want to produce a dance or piece of drama to accompany, or inspired by a poem. All of these approaches help us build deeper connections with the poetry we read and may be excellent inspirations for developing our own ideas, stimulated by what has been read.

Encourage children to write their own poetry:

Immersing children in the pleasures of poetry, through listening to, reading, responding to and performing a wide range of poetry supports children to explore what the genre can offer to them as writers of poetry and in turn the devices, forms and themes they may choose to use in their own writing. In a poem it is possible to give form and significance to a particular event or feeling and to communicate this to the reader or to the listener. Allow opportunities for children to share their work through publishing in an individual poetry journal, a school anthology or by performing it live.

Find out more about our CLiPPA teaching sequences

Find out more about CLPE’s Poetry teaching resources

This blog was originally written for the Reading Zone blog site. Find out more about the blog author, and our learning programmes leader Charlotte Hacking.