Young children are like sponges soaking up language all day long. They learn about the structure and rules as well as how it conveys emotion and ideas. Young children begin to recognize patterns, rhythms, and sounds in language, which is part of the early literacy journey. Poetry and rhymes exemplify rhythmic and dynamic language. Hearing and playing with rhymes help young children develop phonemic awareness, or the ability to hear different sounds in language.
There are many kinds of poetry you and your child can explore. There are tons of books containing all kinds of poems: silly, interpretive, classic, nonsense, etc. There are also books of nursery rhymes, picture books that are illustrated poems, and books that have a strong rhyming schemes.
To take advantage of the positive effects poetry can have on early literacy development, try some of these activities:
- Critical thinking: After reading a poem together, ask your child what the poem was about. Many poems have many different interpretations. There are no wrong answers!
- Encourage wordplay: Young children often like to make up rhyming nonsense words (ooey gooey shooey nooey). Encourage their efforts and join in on the fun!
- Remix your favorite songs: Take a simple nursery song like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and fill in different rhyming words.
- Encourage rhyming: While reading aloud, before you reach the end of a rhyming couplet in a poem, have your child think of a word that rhymes with the word above it.
- Sketch to stretch: Read a poem with your child a couple of times and then have them draw what it makes them think about or feel.
Not sure where to get started? Here’s a list of children’s poetry books you can check out: