To young children, words, sounds, and rhythms, offer endless possibilities, and poetry is a wonderful way to express and explore emerging language growth. Rhymes make poetry accessible, predictable, and easy for them to remember. The goal of using poetry is to expand young children’s vocabulary which allows them to communicate with others. Through repetition, children quickly gain familiarity and then mastery of the language.
Dr. Bernice Cullinan from New York University stated that, “Children like humorous poems. Most children do not like sentimental and serious poetry, or poems difficult to understand. They like poetry with clear-cut rhymes and rhythm, but not poems that depend on imagery.” Jim Trelease said the rules for retaining or developing a love of poetry with young children are: “Read it aloud; read it often; keep it simple; keep it joyous or spooky or exciting.”
Begin each week with a short, fun poem or nursery rhyme that relates to children’s interests. Recite it not only several times at group time in the morning but also throughout the day; on the playground, and at the end of the day.
Infants: Fingerplays & Sound Effects – Speak in warm expressive voices in attending to their needs and when playing with them; recite nursery rhymes and other verses with appealing rhythms and sound patterns. Add fingerplays and sound effects at rest time and diaper changing time to capture their interest.
Toddlers: Flannel Board & Puppets – Have toddlers help put up flannel board pieces or use puppets that dramatize the words of their favorite poems and nursery rhymes. This is a wonderful way for shy children to learn poems and nursery rhymes because the puppets or the flannel pieces do the talking for them.
Preschool: Rebus Experience Chart – Write poems or nursery rhymes in large letters on an experience chart so everyone can see. It doesn’t matter if children can’t read the words. Following along will help them make the important links between oral and written language. Encourage children to make pictures of some of the words and tape them to the line where the words should be so that the children read the rebus pictures for the words that go along with the poem.
Some research suggests that the roots of phonemic awareness, a powerful predictor of later reading success, are found in traditional rhyming, skipping, and word games. Studies have found that three-year-olds knowledge of nursery rhymes specifically related to their more abstract phonological knowledge later on. Engaging children in choral reading of rhymes and rhythms allows them to associate the symbols with the sounds they hear in these words.
“Poetry appreciation is like a ball, it is more caught than taught.” Leland Jacobs