Poetry With the Family
Reading is one of the most important skills you can help your children learn before they enter
school. Studies show that early reading success leads to academic success; and, academic success can
protect children from disruptive behaviors in school and taking risks outside of school. The time you
spend with your children reading today can make a big difference in their future.
Poetry can be the key to getting children excited about words—their sounds, their rhymes, and their
meaning. This excitement is important in encouraging children to learn to read and communicate.
Helping children become aware of the sounds of letters and words is easy. Make a sound, such as “buh”
for the letter “b.” Then, have children say as many words as they know that start with that sound.
Young children may begin with “big” and “boy.” They might end up with lots of funny nonsense words as
well, which is perfect for beginning to appreciate the sounds of words.
To help them find and share even more “b-words,” go on a scavenger hunt through the house, and
through magazines and books, to find items or pictures of things that start with the sound of “b.” Try
different sounds every day. For older children, help them find words that end in the sound of the day.
Say a word and have your child say a word that rhymes with it. Start with easy words like “cat”
(bat, fat, hat, mat, pat, rat, sat, (g)nat, tat, vat) or “ring” (bring, ding, king, ping, sing, ting,
bing, wing, zing). Then, have fun with funny rhymes, such as: umbrella, dumbella; grizzly, frizzly;
super, duper. It doesn’t matter whether a child knows the meaning of the words or if there is no
meaning to the word. What matters is that the sounds are fun and the game is engaging.
I Know It by Heart
Memorizing poetry builds confidence and gives non-readers a way to share. Start with simple ones
that may have come from rhyme matching:
“The cat sat on my hat,
And now it’s flat.”
Or, try nursery rhymes and songs:
“Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet
Eating her curds and whey.
Along came a spider
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.”
Or, how about a page or two from Dr. Seuss or Nikki Giovanni?
It’s easy for children to memorize these poems. They’re short, easy to hear over and over again,
and the sounds and rhymes trigger the next words. There is no bigger confidence builder than standing
in front of an audience, usually the family, to share something you have memorized.
There is lots of great poetry for children. Go to the library and sit on the floor with your child
as you find picture books filled with simple rhyming couplets and poems they will love. Funny poems,
poems about families, or poems that talk about things that interest them (e.g., animals, trains, colors).
Find poetry in songs that children love to sing. This site, Building Blocks for a Healthy Future,
offers some wonderful musical rhymes for children. These Sing-Along Songs are fun and introduce
important lessons in health, fitness, and prevention.