Main Poetry Index

It's short, it's fun, it brings you closer to your child, and it also teaches your children your own language.  It's poetry, or as you might call it before your children go to school "nursery rhymes".  It's not a modern idea at all and in fact our 17th century ancestors used it to teach their children to read.


Rhyming poetry goes in and out of fashion but ask a child of six which they prefer, ie rhyming poetry or unrhymed and I always get the same answer: rhymed.


It's hard to teach little children to WRITE poetry - yes!  I agree.  And why should they?  I have written well over 1000 new poems and many have been published,  but when I was a little girl I only ever wrote one - but how I enjoyed reading poetry and hearing it read to me!  I actually wrote a poem for the school magazine when I was 11 years of age:  MY GARDEN - (and it has been published recently) - for every child of my generation was encouraged to have a little garden, if only to grow some flowers but we were never encouraged to write poetry at school, or taught how to write it.  I just volunteered this poem for the school magazine.  I look at it today and see that it is perfect in metre and rhyme and has never been changed over the years.


Since then I have written nothing until when I was 66 years of age and volunteered to help for one hour a week, the children in the local primary school encouraged me to write, telling me that they liked poems that had rhyme, rhythm and stories.  Week by week and year by year I took them my offerings which they said they loved.


Nursery rhymes are not just for babies:  My grandchildren have listened to lots of my poems and now have my books.  I wrote simple poems such as 'The Little Butterfly' and 'Go Slow' said mother and father snail almost before they could talk and they have soared ahead with their reading, and so have the children of friends.


Listen to our English language.  Every word has its own little stresses and we know where they go because our parents taught us.  Take the word imPORtant with its three syllables, but one of them has a little stress.  It is these little stresses that make the rhythm of poems, and it is knowing how to break words down into syllables as in "im POR tant" that helps children to develop phonological awareness, ie the ability to break words down into sounds.  This is a mighty big tool when it comes to literacy.


I'm an expert at breaking words down into sounds as I not only learnt Pitman's shorthand, but taught it for 30 years.  At 120 words per minute (which was the speed I achieved after much work), this represents two words a second and each of those two words have to be sliced down, in the mind, and sounds put onto paper.  So I guess my own phonological awareness and that of other shorthand writers must be great. Our children have to break the words down that they see on the paper and to learn where the little stresses are within those words.  This is where rhyming poetry is so very important, and even before your child can speak, read rhymes to them and clap your hands to the stresses within the words, as I expect you do anyway.


Teach them Old Mother Hubbard, Little Bo Peep, Humpty Dumpty and all the other rhymes, but then read them one of my alternative rhymes in my Poems for Younger Children Index, and watch their expression change.  They will see that poetry can be lots and lots of fun and they will want more of this good medicine.  They will enjoy it and you will enjoy it, and I expect  you'll be writing your own poems before you have finished having fun.  It's addictive.




By Josie Whitehead

Power of Reading A Reason for Rhyme Reading Between the Rhymes Web Index