I love reading with my children. Watching them get lost inside a land filled only with words and their own amazing imagination, is just magical. Recently we’ve been exploring poetry too with Bits & Bobs: Mr Peek’s Poetry Fun Time, a book filled with gloriously silly rhymes that have my girls giggling like crazy before bedtime and pleading for just one more poem. My girls were instant fans, but how can parents encourage reluctant poetry readers to dive in?
I asked kid’s poet Mr Peek for his advice on how we can all grow our children’s love of poetry…
There are many ways to encourage children to enjoy things, equally, there are many ways to put them off something for life. Reciting Shakespearean sonnets or The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam to a three-year-old might give them a sense of the glorious beauty of language, but it’s probably not the best way to plant in their minds the seed of poetic appreciation.
On the other hand, give them a poem in which the word ‘Loo’ appears, rhymed with ‘Poo’ and, without a doubt, you’ve got a winner. So the first thing you have to do when encouraging your child’s poetic appreciation is to shrug off your serious ‘parent cloak’ for a while and don a more fun and outlandish outfit. Yes, silliness is the order of the day so don’t be afraid to read or think up some crazy, kooky rhymes. Kids love to hear poems where adults act childishly, for example, teachers putting their knickers on their heads! Moments like this are bound to bring a smile to children’s faces and allow them to gradually enjoy poetry through a sense of innocent, anarchic fun.
Of course I’m sure you’ve all sat down and read the wonderful Julia Donaldson books with your child but how to encourage their own creativity with words? One way to start is to allow your child to finish the rhymes as they appear in the books you know well. So you read the book as normal and then allow them to say the last word…
“…I had an Anaconda he was a great big snake I loved all of the noises Anaconda used to make, He used to bang his tail, it sounded like a drum, But when I took him to my school he bit the teacher’s…” (This is where your child shouts ‘THUMB’ or perhaps something else!)
Now it’s time to let them think up their own rhymes. I often play rhyming games at bedtime with my children. It’s simple enough; we find a word e.g. ‘floor’ and then everyone has to think up as many words that rhyme with the word ‘floor’ as they can. Then try it with ‘sink’, ‘towel’, ‘head’ and, god forbid, ‘blue’!
Although it might sound strange, drawing can also be a key to enhancing children’s fun with words. So when I mention a monster to the children in my workshops, I’ll ask them to describe what it looks like, how many arms it has, how many eyes etc. And once they’ve described the monster it’s a natural step to ask them to draw if for me. Then Hey Presto! They’re off!
Another idea that I have found encourages creativity is to get your children to make their own little booklet. I often have children at workshops presenting me with little booklets they’ve made of poems and illustrations that they’ve written drawn and stapled together themselves. These are the Julia Donaldson’s and Michael Rosen’s of the future.
Once your child is used to thinking about rhyming, you can ask them to think up a simple four-line poem for a card e.g. Mother’s or Father’s day, a Christmas card for a teacher, a thank you card illustrated and written for a special friend. Encourage them to write about anything you feel they might enjoy and then display their work in a prominent place so they can see that there is a final result and it isn’t just shoved in a draw and forgotten about. Praise their creativity and endeavour and they will quickly start volunteering to make cards and poems themselves.
No matter how you get children to enjoy poetry and creativity remember that it should also be fun for you. The more fun you are having yourself the more fun you will give to them. There’s nothing worse than someone doing something they obviously can’t stand doing. Engagement and inspiration are primeval powers and if you’re having fun, your children will instinctively feel it and long to join in and have fun as well. When the children are writing something, why not write something yourself? Maybe even something fun that tickles your sense of humour. Then, perhaps when it’s late at night, try writing a poem about something that’s been troubling you or worrying you and see how much better getting things off your chest makes you feel.
Poetry isn’t all about monsters and poos and loos but these things can be the gateway to a child’s imagination and can open up a world that will be valued and appreciated by them for the rest of their lives.
To order Bits & Bobs: Mr Peek’s Poetry Fun Time for £5 or to find out more about Mr Peek’s Poetry workshops visit: http://www.mrpeekspoetryplace.co.uk