April is National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month 2002

        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 joyfully and playfully. 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 candlestick.

        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.

        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 begin?

        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 surprises in the last lines of many poems. Shel Silverstein was also prolific, with a sense of humor skewed toward slightly older kids.

        For the very youngest children -- especially those who donít read yet but enjoy looking at illustrations -- the books of Dr. Seuss and P. D. Eastman provide an unbeatable combination of humor, whimsy, and showing examples of early concepts such as big, small, up, down, and other comparative words.

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


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