National Poetry Month
         You knew that April started with April Foolís Day, but perhaps youíre just
finding out that it is also the first day of National Poetry Month. No kidding!

         Kids in their early years of learning language are adventuresome in many
ways. One of these is their exploration and use of language. You can help
support that adventure.

         Consider the popularity of nursery rhymes. They use rhythms and rhymes in
a joyful and playful manner. The situations are silly. They connect kids to a
common American culture. Many recall simpler times and activities: kids
fetching a pail of water, a lamb following a girl to school, a boy jumping over a

         These sing-song rhythms help children develop an appreciation of  the
spoken language. Then, as children begin to read, they notice that there are
spelling patterns. You can help your child to see that if they can spell one word
and remember the pattern, they can then use this pattern to spell many other
rhyming words.
         These poems are often wonderful vocabulary builders, as children come
into contact with words or phrases formerly unfamiliar to them. This gives you an
opportunity to explain these concepts.

         Many songwriters nowadays take the easy way out, trying to pass off such
pairs as came and sane as rhymes. Itís difficult to get kids to understand that
these are not rhymes, if that is what they are used to hearing. You can help by
setting a higher standard in the books you read with your child. Where do you
         My students have many favorites. Itís hard to beat the humor and
inventiveness of Jack Prelutsky, who has several books on the market. He has all
the features kids enjoy in poetry: silliness, great rhymes, and many surprises in the
last lines of his poems. Shel Silverstein was also prolific, with a sense of humor
skewed toward slightly older kids. Thereís no better writer to start with  than Dr.
Seuss, whose books are available everywhere.

         The folks in the childrenís department at your favorite bookstore or library
are in a good position to fill you in on their favorites.

         This column has been incorporated and expanded in Teach Your Children
Well: A Teacherís  Advice for Parents.

All columns are copyright © Jay Davidson. Permission is hereby granted for individuals to download and copy them for individual use. There is a modest charge for printing these columns in any publication. To receive that permission, contact Jay Davidson