Monday, April 28, 2014

The Importance of Poetry in the Pre-School Years.

Finger plays and rhymes come to life during circle and large group times as preschool children show word meaning through simple actions and finger movements.  Preschoolers develop memory and recall skills as they sing and recite the songs and poems in this curriculum resource collection.  Finger plays, action poems, nursery rhymes, and songs are grouped according to early childhood education themes. There's quite a lot of poetry for children around but it can be surprisingly hard to find really good poems to share with children.
For a start, what kind of poems is worth sharing? Does poetry even matter for kids and, if so, why?
But first, the short answer to the question of why it's important to expose babies and young children to poetry.
Believe it or not, hearing poems and rhymes from their earliest days helps children develop three really critical pre-reading and communication skills:
·       phonological awareness;
·       a rich vocabulary;
·       background knowledge;
It's tempting to think that poetry is simply a series of rhyming lines which describe a thing or an experience.

But if it was as simple as that, why would we need poetry at all? Encyclopedias, the internet and other kinds of writing can tell us about experiences, things, people and even complex ideas. What does poetry add that these other forms of writing don't? One explanation I like is that poetry communicates the essence or the soul of something, rather than just describing it.
For example, imagine describing a playground swing to someone: what it looks like and how it feels to swing backwards and forwards. The person you're talking to would probably understand but would he or she really get a sense of the excitement and freedom a child feels on a swing?
Now, take a moment to read Robert Louis Stevenson's short poem The Swing. The poem communicates so much more than any mere description could: the joy, the wonder, the fun a small child feels when he or she swings high up into the air.
Another way to explain it is to say that a poet uses language and linguistic techniques to create visual images that come alive in the mind of the reader or listener.
As the images come alive, the listener or reader becomes part of the experience being described: he is there, at least in his imagination. And because he is there, even for a very short time, his emotions are also engaged. He feels frightened or excited, filled with awe or sad.

Pretty amazing, really,
Ms. Nora Sierra
Kinder Teacher
Early Childhood Coordinator

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