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Translating Teacher-Talk: Why National Poetry Month Matters to All Readers

April is National Poetry Month and for early readers, it can open up a world of new text. But, honestly, poetry needs serious re-branding and based on some fantastic new publications, it's getting just that. I'd like to tell you why I think poetry is the hidden gem in literacy, for early readers and beyond. You'll find the post with "Easter eggs" linked throughout so you can enjoy the enchantment of poetry.

1. Children love silliness - and who doesn't melt at the sound of children's laughter?

There is an abundance of silliness in early literacy dressed as poetry. Children love to laugh at language that seems ironic or outlandish and that can be found in a WIDE selection of poetry collections and books.

Any one who has read poetry with children knows that it can be an experience of playfulness and fun.

2. Rhythm and rhyme are critical early literacy skills.

Rhyming is just one of the imperative phonemic understandings children must possess to develop into strong readers. Poetry allows readers to play with volume, pace, rhythm, inflection (feeling and expression in your voice) and pausing and phrasing.

3. Poetry capitalizes on the capacity of our elegant and sometimes language.

In seemingly few words, poets employ literary devices such as figurative language, alliteration, metaphor, hyperbole that can capture situations, feelings, characteristics, and tell stories with powerful eloquence. Listen to the authors and poets, beginning with Marilyn Singer, describe what they think poetry adds to the experiences of reading.

4. Poetry is visual and captivating.

Not only is the language visual in nature, poetry can be structured artistic ways. Lines on a page can take the shape of an animal or flower, long and short passages create visual interest and when authors play with fonts and words like rumbles, ogre, despair, stampeding, gelatinous, iridescent and invincible it can be captivating! Check out Song of the Gloopy Gloppers, by Jack Prelutsky!

5. Poetry is for everyone.

For many reluctant readers, the mere glance at the number of words on a page can feel intimidating and insurmountable. Poetry, however, offers a curling finger toward text with it's gentle lines laid out for each reader to consume over and over. Whether the poem is somber and deep or witty and whimsical, lines of a poem are broken in ways that feel accessible and "bite-sized". Motivating to readers is the fact that a poem can be finished in one sitting, SHOULD be read aloud and takes on a musical qualities when the reader gives the poem time and care.

For my middle school readers, poetry can be my way in. I can find poems about anything! Boys who only think of sports? Yup! Got'em. Girls who are interested in history. Covered. Sarah Holbrook's collection is a must as are Kwame Alexander's description of a teenaged-boys thoughts about growing up without his father in The Crossover Series, novels written in verse. Novels written in verse possess their own challenges for readers that keep them engrossed but not taxed. I could go on, but here's a list of new older children and YA publications in poetry you will love. A-Ma-Zing.

We want readers to read widely. This means all text types have something to offer. The content of poetry can range from informational to dream-like, from odes of love to lunch room catastrophe. It's why this type of writing is of tremendous value to us all.

Read and Write On!


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