Inside: Why Children Should Read & Memorize Poetry
Poetry is for everyone.
Forget poetry analysis for now. More than anything, poetry is for enjoying. It makes you feel something. It gives new layers of meaning to ideas.
Percy Bysshe Shelley states it this way:
Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.”
Everyone benefits from reading poetry…including children.
There are so many wonderful things that happen to children when they hear, read, and memorize poetry. We encourage you to dive into it with your kids and reap those benefits.
Whether you love it, hate it, or have already read it to your children but don’t know why, here’s why reading poetry with your children is so great.
Benefits of Reading Poetry to Children
Poetry fills the mind with new ways of communicating ideas, thoughts, and feelings. For children, who are daily learning and growing in this ability, that translates to both academic and emotional benefits.
When children read and memorize poetry:
- Develops vocabulary
- Expands communication skills
- Encourages creativity
- Improves critical thinking
- Promotes empathy
How Does Poetry Do This?
Poetry accomplishes these things in a few ways.
- A poet doesn’t have the luxury of thousands of words. They consider each one – does it feel right, sound right, convey the right meaning? This leads to rich language.
- Rich language, layered meaning, and abstract ideas in poems engage the mind differently than narrative stories. The mind is actively deciphering what a poet is telling you.
- Poetry uniquely positions you within a poet’s mind. Poems can cause you to temporarily suspend your own feelings and step into someone else’s for a time. That’s empathy, folks.
- Hearing and understanding an idea or concept from a different angle stretches the mind and offers new perspective.
- Hearing that new perspective can cause you to ponder how you’d convey the idea or concept differently, which stretches you creatively.
What’s the Point of Memorizing Poetry?
We live in a time when self-expression is paramount. As early as children can hold a pencil, they’re asked to draw or write what they feel. This can cause unnecessary pressure for children who are at the beginning of learning about life.
As we have said before, ’tis better to fill the bucket first.
While they are young, we should furnish children’s minds with beautiful words, thought-provoking ideas, and well-written excerpts. We should help them delight in great examples before requiring them to produce it.
Poetry steps in where plain description fails to express a feeling. When you memorize a poem, it becomes a part of your emotional vocabulary.
When you memorize it, your understanding of the words deepens over time. You can draw it from your mind years later and recognize a new layer of meaning to the words.
Poems are often meant to be spoken aloud to let the words roll over your tongue. Memorizing requires that.
Poems are meant to be savored again and again. Memorizing gives you that gift for a lifetime.
Most of all, memorized poems become a part of your life.
Where to Begin
Poetry should be read, enjoyed, and memorized with your children. But where should you begin? How do you sort through endless options to find ones worth reading and sharing together?
We have two suggestions for you:
- Our FREE Poem of the Month resource
- Fabulous children’s poetry collections
Read more about our Poem of the Month resource here. It’s always free, and you receive a monthly email with a PDF document containing a wonderful poem, info about the poet, poetry terms and examples, and other poem titles to explore.
Sign-up for our Poem of the Month below:
We have several favorite poetry collections for children to recommend. With any of these books, simply open to a page and choose one to read. Find a family favorite to memorize. Delight in it.
Here are a few options we love:
This has been our family's go-to book for poetry for two generations. Over 700 classic and modern poems written by poets from William Shakespeare to J. R. R. Tolkien, Emily Dickinson to Langston Hughes, and covering a range of favorite topics—pets, playtime, family, nature, and nonsense—ensure that there’s a poem to please every child.More info →
Here is a delightful look at childhood, written by master poet and storyteller Robert Louis Stevenson. In this collection of sixty-six poems, Stevenson recalls the joys of his childhood, from sailing boats down a river, to waiting for the lamplighter, to sailing off to foreign lands in his imagination.More info →
Superb treasury of time-honored poetic gems includes Lewis Carroll's "The Walrus and the Carpenter," Edward Lear's "The Owl and the Pussy-Cat," Eugene Field's "Wynken, Blynken and Nod," Emily Dickinson's "I’m Nobody! Who are you?," Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Swing," many more.More info →
We hope these ideas encourage you to read and memorize poems as a family. Everyone will be enriched by it, and the connections and memories you make will last a lifetime.