When we think of poetry, we rarely think of children. It’s usually Keats and Wordsworth, or Henry Lawson, or Seamus Heaney and Billy Collins, or dozens of other wonderful wordsmiths who come to mind. And much as I love them, and share them with my son (it is never, ever too early to share the rhythms of language), reading adult poetry aloud is vastly different to reading poetry intended for children.
Poetry, whether it be for children or adults, has value—especially when read aloud. The differences are usually about pitch, tone, and subject: poetry written specifically for children relates in some way to their experience, in a way that which is written for adults cannot. Moving house, being out bush, animals (movement, sounds, behaviours), play…there are dozens of things and ideas kids can relate to, recite, and share.
Love the idea of reading poetry with your kids, but stuck for where to get started? Look for illustrated works, like one of our favourites, Lorraine Marwood’s Guinea Pig Town and Other Animal Poems. The illustrations help younger children verbalise and discuss the words. And don’t be afraid to play! Ask questions, make silly noises, appreciate language! The marvellous thing about poetry is that there is no wrong way to read it—it can be happy or sad or hilarious. You can experiment and have fun and talk about it in a way that’s not possible with straight up prose. And when paired with illustrations, like the wombat shown here, words become something almost tangible and exciting.
Lorraine Marwood was born and raised in rural Victoria and has lived for most of her married life on a dairy farm with her husband and their six children. Lorraine is an award-winning poet who has been widely published in literary magazines across Australia, as well as magazines in the UK, USA, New Zealand and Canada. Read more of her poetry in A Ute Picnic and Other Australian Poems, Ratwhiskers and Me and Star Jumps, which was short listed for the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards 2010, Lower Primary Category; received a Notable mention in the Children s Book Council of Australia Awards, 2010; and won the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, Children’s Fiction, 2010.
Tell us about the poems you read with your children in the comments!