An SEO professional with an MBA in marketing & a Poet enthusiast.
My 6 Year Old Niece Read My Poem - What She Did Next Was Shocking
I have written poems on love, horror, and sad ones too but they’re all for those who have the ability to comprehend deeper meanings. This time, I wrote a poem for my 6 year old niece Lucia because I wanted to express my feelings as her aunt. So, it was random but a loving gesture. She read it once, said she liked it, kissed my cheek and then taking that piece of paper with her, she walked out of her room. What I saw later was shocking.
This experience is based on how I learnt to write poems for children. And with this, I could answer open-ended questions like why is poetry important for children. Many people ask this question, especially parents who can’t understand why their children have to learn nursery rhymes or small poems. But the reason is seldom understood. Even schools do not answer this question unless asked.
As I sat next to the window in my niece’s room talking to my sister (my niece’s mother), I saw Lucia running towards her friends who were waiting for her in the backyard. She was holding my poem in her hand whilst running around and playing.
That piece of paper seemed to be a problem for her to obviously carry it with her throughout. While I was briefly feeling the love my niece shared for my poem, I noticed that she was looking for a place to keep it so that she could continue playing. The only place for it was either back at the house or at the table in the backyard where we usually sit for our evening tea.
What happened later was shocking as well as confusing for me. Lucia casually walked to the bin in our backyard where we usually dispose all the dried leaves and… she threw that piece of paper into the bin. My poem was thrown away.
What did I just see? I was so confused. Was this the attention span of a 6 year old or did my poem hold no value? I will get to the part as to what I had written in that poem.
Poems need to be specific – first lesson
Why is poetry important for children? Because that is the age children readily learn what you teach. It happens naturally. Poem has long term benefits that children can learn from varying angles. In a short while, I will share its benefits, so hang in there. What I am about to reveal is important.
Here’s my next lesson…
Around 3 hours later when my niece got back into the house sweaty and muddy, I asked her where the poem was. She casually said that she threw it away while catching her breath from all the playing. I wasn’t angry, not one bit. Even though she is just a child, she will have her reasons. Her thoughts are important to me. But I was curious, so I asked her whether she liked the poem. She said yes, she did. I asked her what she liked about it, she said – “the letters were pretty”. My next question was a deal breaker for no one – did she understand what I wrote in it. She said, “No”.
My heart broke not as an aunt but as a writer. How could my niece not understand what I meant in that poem? I wrote it for her with love and the deep connection that we shared for each other.
This got me thinking. What did my poem lack? How do I re-write a poem so that she can understand it, like it and store it with her as a reminder of me? This is where I realized that I have never written poems for children. This is because no one ever asked me this question – why is poetry important for children? Why is it really important?
My next lesson revolves around realizing my mistakes in the poem
When I wrote this poem for the first time, I didn’t write it from her perspective; from the viewpoint of a 6 year old. I didn’t try to understand her as a reader who happens to be a child. So, I began researching and reading poems for children. In those poems, I understood the form of communication and the reason why my poem deserved the bin.
Children’s poems contain sounds and a lot more effort…
As you can see, the poem ‘Mary had a little lamb’ written by Sarah Joseph Hale (1788-1879) has repetition, rhythm of sound, rhyming and structured meters. So, as the children sing along this poem, they are able to memorize the stanzas easily. It’s meticulously used in order to tell a simple story relatable to children.
Basically, Mary had a little lamb
It came along with her to school
Although Mary’s friends enjoyed playing with the Lamb
Her school teacher tried to get rid of it
The lamb didn’t leave
The children asked why the lamb loved Mary so much
And the teacher says that it is because Mary loves the little lamb too
The story is so simple – it has no highs and no lows – not a single plot but it is written so beautifully that you can see why it has been passed down through generations for children to read and sing. Remember, this poem was written in the 18th century and we still love it.
But how do you make a story like this one interesting? A story that has no serious plot yet it is written so skillfully; fun to say and sing as well.
Let’s check out another poem. An excuse expected from most naughty children yet a humorous twist at the end. This poem is by an American writer Shel Silverstein (1930-1999). Have you ever as a kid made excuses for not going to school? And you’ve properly thought of what to say and how to pretend? Well, you might find this poem relatable as part of your childhood. From my point of view, Shel has written it so well that even adults would enjoy reading it.
Wasn’t this poem fun to read? You can imagine little Peggy Ann McKay get out of bed and run out of the room to play?
As you can see, this poem had rhymes written all over it. Shel did a great job at making sure that each word that rhymed was entirely and solely related to the topic. This is another lesson to be learned while writing a poem not just for children but for any genre and age as well. When you rhyme, make sure that your rhyming stanzas relate to the topic of your poem and not the other way around.
So, why is poetry important for children?
“How can poetry benefit a child’s state of mind?” My father would ask, especially when he read my poems which were mostly dark and sad. I love writing horror poetry.
But whatever we learn in preschool is taught to us for a reason. I wish, however, those reasons were informed to us. Even though we were kids, there must have been a way to tell us the importance of poetry. If not us kids, at least the parents! This is so that the parents (like my dad) who didn’t understand its value would have realized and invested his time in allowing us to learn poetry in the way it was taught. We did learn to sing poems regardless but it would have been nice if my father would have seen the merit in it.
There are a few but timeless benefits that can grab your attention:
- Language: Your child will be able to develop their language speaking skills. Poems that especially rhyme have words that are new to children. If they learn these new words through poetry in a fun and song-like engaging manner, they will learn to mentally absorb those words quickly. This rhythmic nature of a poem allows children to develop pitch practice, volume and voice inflection.
- Cognitive: Reading and understanding poems through rhyming and sounds will help your child develop their cognitive abilities. The words may be repeated or may sound the same but this will help develop your child’s ability to understand and process words. This will help your child to better understand academic subjects like math and foreign languages as they climb the academic ladder in school and college.
- Physical: You’d be surprised at how a simple poem can help your child to coordinate with their breathing, tongue and mouth movements when they say a poem out loud. Because it is necessary to let the poem sound a certain way. Look back at the poem ‘Mary had a little lamb’. I am sure you know how the song goes. Now, as you try to sing it, there is a certain stretch, pause and rhythmic structure of singing that poem. Without doing so, the impact of the meaning is reduced. Similarly, when children physically use their breathing, tongue and mouth movements in accordance with the nature of the poem, they will learn valuable aspects of linguistics.
- Emotional: This basically involves you as a parent where you help your child recite the poem. And as you do, you get to watch them develop these basic skills that are so important for their future. As your child recites these poems with you, this practice will help develop the personality of your child. They’ll become expressive and they’ll have fun while learning to do so.
The first poem I wrote for my niece – is it worthy of a throw into the bin?
If you remember – I mentioned I would share the poem I wrote for my niece. Maybe you can learn from my ignorance although I am well aware that this is something you probably already know.
To my Heaven’s Little Angel
May you have love all around you
Love that is pure and true
Love that fills your world
With candies, toys and laughter
Because for once I want to see
A little one enjoy the simple things of life
Maybe this will bring joy to me
To my heaven’s little angel
I hope you have all the joy
Friends to play with, girl and boy
As you can see – the poem holds nothing engaging (much to my disappointment) – now that I look back – I wish I knew better. Would you write a better poem than this – hell, yes! Would I write a poem better than this – today? Yes, of course. Now, I have insight, a grievous past mistake as a lesson and some learning from amazing poets to fall back on. So, I re-wrote the poem.
While re-writing it, I considered making it more specific, adding her nick name to it. And I also created a situation – adding sound, internal rhyming and repetition. So, let’s see how it goes.
Hey Little Lulu
Hey little Lulu, let’s go to the park
Let’s play on the swing before it gets dark
Or mummy will bring no supper or snack
She won’t let us eat until we get back
Hey little Lulu, let’s got out to play
Happy smiles outside, it’s a beautiful day
There’s sunshine and breeze
We’ll run round the trees
Let’s play hide and seek or catch a ball
Or have tea with your favourite doll
You can run around or hold my hand
We’ll scream and laugh and jump in the sand
In the days to come, I’ll have work a ton
It’s only fair now to have some fun
So, how did you like my poem now? I’m still working on it but this is what I’ll probably give my niece in a few days. I am planning to say it out loud to her and then give her that piece of paper. So, in this way, she can cherish it and plus I can narrate to her my feelings as her aunt in a fun way.
Note that here I have used proper meters so that the rhyming fits well and the sounds are synchronized. The stanzas have a different set - in terms of the number of lines in each of them. It’s not necessary that we have the same set or number of lines in each stanza in a poem unless that is how you want to frame it. This was my personally customized method. Yours may be different and that’s okay.
Final thoughts on importance of poetry for children
If you personally ask me, why is poetry important for children, I would have just one thing to say. Children have a sponge-like mind. They’ll absorb and retain what you say, teach and impart. They’ll also imitate their surrounding environment, including your actions. So, why not give them this intellectual form of art called poetry? It’s a gift that will stay with them forever.