Introducing Poetry to Young Readers and Pre-Readers

Written by: Dylan Swisher

Poetry has been a part of my life since I was a kid. Now, as the host of the weekly Poemtime series at the Poetry Foundation, I help bring poetry to life for kids and kick-start an early interest in poems.

Here are some tips I’d like to share for introducing poetry to your kids at home:

  1. Mix it up –It’s no secret that kids get restless quickly, so one thing I like to do is have a variety of poems ready: long, short, classic, new. Rather than read from an anthology, try picture books that highlight one particular poem from a collection, like Julie Morstad’s illustrated Robert Louis Stevenson poem The Swing. There are a lot of options out there, and at the Foundation library, we have more than 3000 books for young readers to chose from. We guarantee there’s something here for every attention span.
  2. Vamp up voice–Your voice keeps your child engaged, so try to use different pitches and tones for different characters. Before Poemtime, I like to read through a poem once to pick out sections to emphasize. Then when reading to the kids, I give a silly character an equally silly voice and throw in some sound effects, too.
  3. Keep it playful – Books aren’t the only way to introduce kids to poetry. HBOFamily’s A Child's Garden of Poetry and Classical Baby: The Poetry Show are two Emmy-award winning shows that mix animation, song, and verse. Cartoons like Martha Speaks and Arthur also feature poetry, so kids can encounter and engage with poems in places—and with faces—they already know.

Want to Find Out More? Contact the Poetry Foundation Library with questions, stop in for a visit, or browse our collection online

Dylan Swisher hosts the Poetry Foundation's Poemtime series every Wednesday at 10 am.

Posted on December 17, 2012 at 4:57 PM