Reading Poetry to the Under 2s

Dear Zoo,

This is a very good day. This is the last day of winter. Good things are happening. The air is rich with possibility. I like it a lot.

This month, my library spotlighted poetry as New Zealand celebrates poetry on the 25th of August (National Poetry Day). Events around the country, and region, bring poetry to the fore for a day, or maybe a couple of weeks. One of the things I did this month, in recognition of this, was read poetry in my weekly Small Time sessions, which is a session for under 2s and their caregivers that involves rhymes, stories, music and bubbles (the best part!). This month, I also read a couple of poems at each session. Mostly fun, rhyming poems from books in our collection targeted at young children.

Say what you will about poetry – people tend to either adore it or think its naff – but it works well for babies. It’s short (compared to reading a full length picture book), it plays with language, both vocab and syntax, and it’s fun. It also opens caregivers to a new way of engaging their children with literature, which is an important aspect of the session.

You might say – but there are no pictures! Au contraire. Poetry books for young children contain fun illustrations and even exciting elements like lift-the-flaps (such as in Rumble, Roar, Dinosaur! by Tony Mitton). The crawlers and walkers in our group do respond to pictures, but the words on a page can also be embellished with actions and sounds. And the babies in our group mostly benefit from hearing you speak, and the diverse vocabulary and sounds in poetry is perfect.

Yours ready for spring,