Poetry is the most captivating form of literature, and it is also the most ancient art. Most of the ancient literary works like the 4 epics – Ramayana, Mahabharata, Iliad, Odyssey, the Vedas; are all written in verses. Since the ancient ages to the dark middle ages to the modern age of technology – poetry has stood the test of time – it is the oldest form of creative literature and is still going strong. And the reason is simple – poetry gives food for thought! So what better way to bring up your child than incorporating a little rhythmic beauty in your child’s fantasy?
The answer is pretty obvious – poetry is not only the father of all literature, but it is also the father of music. Poetry is the one which introduced rhythm, otherwise it would only be melody. You might refer to poetry as the written form of music – as the thoughts of poetry being the melody and the rhythm is in the verses. Rhythm is a very natural or built in instinct in all of us. And poetry exploits that natural rhythm, which draw children into the language. They unknowingly respond by moving to the rhythm – physically and/or verbally. It is something we’re born with – and poetry is the easiest and most effective way to bring it out. Rhythm is necessary in every aspect of life – be it literature, music, dancing or sports.
Children respond to these natural rhythms of poetry, and they’re likely to crave for them. Not only do children respond to it, but recitation can further play a major role in learning language and speaking skills. Children are more likely to remember or memorize a concept told in rhyme than one told in prose form. The way you read a poem or rhyme to your child will encourage him or her to read it back to you – putting emphasis on the same places on the right syllables – intonation and enunciation will thus be developed. This is one of the root and significant features of poetry.
How to begin?
Poetry can be somewhat confusing for kids. Because most poetry are not literal. So, children may confuse themselves by trying to make a connection with the verses and reality. It is upto you to help them understand the beauty in metaphorical extensions of meaning. Childhood is all about fantasy and imagination. It is this fantasy and imagination that brings out the beauty of childhood. While most forms of children’s literature like fantasy tales (from Alice in Wonderland to Harry Potter) etc., have the power to feed imagination, none do it quite as creative and intellectually as poetry.
So, re-introduce poetry into your life as well by the process of introducing your child to it. While you may think that bed time stories have their place fixed, poetry can easily take their place, and also it’s place during play and learning time. Start off with simple and fun children’s poetry from William Wordsworth, Lewis Carroll, Robert Louis Stevenson, Emily Dickinson, George MacDonald, Christina Rossetti etc. Mother Goose is a great example of children’s poetry, which do so much more than rhyme. Crack up yourself with your own simple rhymes from everyday life – like the goofy food songs or rhymes which you make while feeding your kids! Or use simple nursery rhymes to teach younger kids new concepts. For example, ‘Monday’s Child’ is a meaningless rhyme altogether but it’s is good to teach kids about different days of the week.
The end result
Poetry is present everywhere – in music, in lyrics, in soothing lullabies which put your crying babies back to sleep in the middle of the night. As they grow into their teens, they’ll eventually incorporate poetry in forms of Mp3. Old school hip-hop music(Tupac Shakur), to country songs, Bob Dylan – are all examples of great poetry. If you set the right foundation, your kids will grow up to have good taste in everything – starting from books to arts to music and values.
Cambridge University’s Professor of Children’s Poetry, Morag Styles, thinks that the responses children make towards poetry are instinctive and natural – as if they were born with it, or have learned it while inside the mother’s womb. In our subconscious, we’re all born poets.