Monday, May 13, 2013

Poetic Language for Tots

Chris Drumm
When it comes to reading poetry with kids, start young! Even little ones who are still developing language can benefit enormously from hearing poetic language. The rhythms and rhymes in poetry draw kids’ attention to the sounds and patterns in English. This translates to oral language development, and to an important awareness for language sounds (called phonemic awareness) that’s a precursor for reading skills. Exposure to poetry builds vocabulary as well. But perhaps most importantly, poetic language written with kids in mind encourages children to be playful with language and emphasizes the fun aspects of literacy. Milton and Chaucer use some great poetic language, but if you’d rather start your little one with something a bit more child-friendly, here are some ideas:

  • Read nursery rhymes to your kids. The simple language is full of appealing rhythm and rhyme. 

  • Sing songs like Raffi’s "Willoughy Wallaby Woo" or "The Name Game." Kids will get some great practice with a skill called phoneme manipulation; that is, they’ll practice substituting sounds in words to make new words, which is important for developing reading skills later. They’ll get a good giggle out of using their names and names of their friends and family in the songs, too. 

  • Tongue twisters aren’t exactly poetry, but they help hone kids’ attention to language sounds. Try "Peter Piper" or the classic woodchuck twister, or challenge your kids to say, “She sells seashells by the seashore.” 

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