Starting with Preschool
Poetry is used to help children learn. Those simple nursery rhymes? Poems put to melodies. Poems are especially used with younger children to help them remember important things as they grow. Like the steps to washing hands, or how to calm down. Even the rhyme about bunny ears to tie shoes is a poem!
As Children Grow…
The lessons change and different poems are needed. Now one might think that children learn everything at school without poems. This is only half true. Math and science are covered easily, as well as how to read and write. But what about how to be a person? How to handle friends and bullies? Sometimes the simplest poems hold the strongest messages. A great example of this comes from “Everything On It” a collection of children’s poems by Shel Silverstein. The poem titled “Masks” (shown above) is short but gets its point across. The message being that if you hide who you are you will never know if there are others like you. Others with the your same kind of crazy and kooky, that make you the amazing person you are. Others out there that don’t eat the crusts of the bread on their PB & Js but only on their Ham & Swiss. It is the little things the connect people in the biggest ways. And finding that connection is so important to young children.
Why This Matters?
Because all children want the same thing. And they learn how to get this thing through anything they can find, like poems. “And what is this thing?” You may ask. No its not the newest toy, or those shiny shoes at the store. What every child wants more than anything in the world, especially as they grow, is to belong. To find a place of their own, to feel that they matter to others. But then you ask, “How do poems accomplish this?”. Well, take the poem from the previous paragraph. For some kids they know what it means right away, and feel a bit of hope that somewhere out there, someone is like them, and that means that being who they are is ok. And for those who scrunch up their faces in confusion at how odd the words seem, they can look across the classroom, see another student making that same face, and laugh at the fact that it’s ok to not know.