Importance of Poetry for Children

Paramita Mukherjee Mullick

Nursery rhymes and lullabies are a part and parcel of childhood. Nursery rhymes help very young children in many ways. They help in cognitive development, language enrichment, aids in the habit of reading and also helps in speech of children. Enacting rhymes influence physical development. While reciting they interact with others and so there is social and emotional development. Nursery rhymes also tell children about historical facts.

Older children also need poetry. I am passionate about poetry and I promote poetry in different ways. I have done a series of poetry workshops in several schools of Mumbai themed “Poetry as a medium to inculcate moral values in young minds”. I got very impactful feedback from the school students. I was delighted and surprised to see how poetry can inculcate moral values in them. Want to share a few lines of a poem written by a class IX girl named Rachana Purkayastha of Pawar Public School, Chandivali, Mumbai titled, “War”

First light breaks on yet one more day
Nevertheless, the light is mysteriously gone;
On this sky dim and dim
Trust appears to be lost in this fight ground. 
Numerous young fellows have passed on here,
         Penances were made.
In any case, was it justified, despite all the trouble,
Did it bring any change?

Thus, my research into the importance of poetry for children became intense. Something learned in the form of a poem aids in memorising. Do you remember as children we used to compose an acrostic poem to memorise the periodic table? Poems ignite creativity. Nothing can be more creative than poetry. Poetry is imagination at its best. A quote of Kalyani Patnaik, Principal Hiranandani Foundation School, Powai, Mumbai echoes my thoughts. She says, “Poetry in young minds inspire creativity and develop interpretation skills. The rhythm and rhyme touch the aesthetic chord of the soul. Poetry nurtured from the beginning brings out the best in the child. Poetry is the expression of an impression”. Poetry is beauty. We generally describe something beautiful by saying, “It is as beautiful as poetry”. So, a child develops an eye for beauty when she reads poetry. Vocabulary is enriched by reading poems. Grammar is also honed, so language as a whole becomes powerful. In poetry we use a lot of associative literary devices like similes and metaphors. So, a sense of association is formed in the minds of children while reading poetry. They become exposed to relationships as poems of love and other emotions express different relationships. And of course! Who can eliminate the fun of reading poems? So sometimes it is just for sheer fun that children read poems.

Some photographs of my poetry workshops with children

Again, if we dive deep, we will see poetry strengthens language by making children strong in spellings and punctuation. If we say “A panda eats shoots and leaves” and if we say “A panda eats, shoots and leaves” …the single comma changes the meaning completely. Similarly in poetry, punctuation changes the meanings so obviously children learn correct punctuation by reading poetry. Poems arrange thoughts in a sequential manner so the child also learns to arrange her thoughts sequentially. Poetry becomes beautiful because of imagery and so poems influence a child in using imagery. While reciting poems a child will develop good diction and pronunciation. She will also understand how to express herself clearly.

Nowadays I am conducting workshops for school teachers to help them make students write poems. While taking these workshops I got fascinating ideas from teachers too. When a child composes poems, he feels important, he feels he has achieved something. It is like a trophy for the child. He also gets interested in reading more and more poetry. Children whether writing poems or reading poems get used to continuity in their own writing. They can express feelings well. Many poets like Sarojini Naidu wrote about sensory emotions so children reading such poems become sensitive to their own senses---the sound they hear, different smells around them and different tastes. Poetry helps them to know about words expressing sounds (Onomatopoeia). They start enjoying sounds around them like the chirping of birds, the rustling of leaves in the wind or the honking of cars. In poetry we generally don’t repeat the same words, instead we use synonyms. Thus, poems teach children to use synonyms. Poetry teaches children to be inclusive.  Poetry teaches them that there should be diversity but unity in diversity. 

Poetry has its own charm, own sweetness. As Katie Bagli, a famous children’s author and poet says, “Poetry, with its charm, sense of rhythm and usage of creative language, is an excellent way to get children drawn to the written word”.

My latest book, “Grrrs to Hisses and their homes” is children’s poetry about climate change and conservation. So, environmental issues can be taught in a fun way to children through poetry. Scientific facts can be imparted in an easier way through poetry I will love to share with you few excerpts from the book. Lines from my poem, “Green in all seasons”.

Imagine a world without trees, not at all green.
I simply dread to think about such a scene.
Remember the huge 2019 Amazon Forest fire?
We don’t want a repeat, absolutely no desire.
The evergreen trees make up the tropical and temperate forests.
Protect them and let them not be burnt and thrown to waste.

Sharing with you the first and last stanza of another poem, “Venomous but not evil”

I am a hissing, long and slithery snake.
I may be venomous but nothing to be scared of.
I have a hard and unblinking stare I know.
What to do? I have no eyelids, so the scary show.

You all are scared of me it seems.
Only a few of us are venomous.
I mean no harm so let me see the light of day,
Live and let live, is the motto if you may.

 So let children read and enjoy poetry. We poets have a responsibility towards children to cater good children’s poetry to them. So, poetry which is the ultimate of creativity wash away boredom and make children bloom and flourish.

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