The Benefits of Reading Poetry For Children

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?
That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again

A. E. Housman,

A Shropshire Lad

**This post has been updated for 2018.

The above poem is a fine example of the rich literary heritage we have here in Britain, and passing on this heritage to our children by teaching them poetry is important for many reasons. Not only does it expose them at an early age to high quality writing and that conveys the beauty of the world, but reading poems has also shown to improve a child’s imagination, critical thinking and emotional resilience.

World Poetry Day, which falls on 21st March, is dedicated to celebrate poetry and encourage children to read and write it from an early age. One of its stated aims is to encourage the revival of the oral tradition of poetry recitals, and this can easily be done in the classroom. Asking each pupil to bring a poem into the class and recite it, followed by a brief class discussion on what the poem means to them is a good way to get children thinking in a reflective way about literature.

Poetry reading and recital has a host of other benefits for children. It can improve the language development by introducing new words in a small, manageable form, and introduce new words in a more contained and understandable context than from reading long passages of prose. It can also be more fun for children, as a short, snappy rhyming poem can be less intimidating and more enjoyable to read out loud than the succession of long paragraphs found in books.

Another benefit from reading poetry, perhaps the most important, is equipping children with an emotional inventory upon which to draw when faced with life’s challenges and disappointments. The insights on the human condition given from history’s greatest poets can be a source of comfort and encouragement that can stay with children for the remainder of their lives.  

A selection of poetry teaching resources can be found here, and a selection of classical poems for children can be seen here. 

Do you have a favourite poem? Please share it with us!

Did you know the 21st March is also International Day of Forests? We've collated some interesting resources to help you celebrate the day in the classroom.
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