Friday, April 6, 2018

Beauty and Magic and Power: the perks of reading poetry

April is National Poetry Month (yay!). How could I pass up this opportunity to visit the intersection of middle grade books and poetry?  

In the past, I’ve shared some of my reasons for writing verse, but what about reading verse? Why read poetry? Why read novels in verse? While I’m far from an expert on literacy or education, I have learned a thing or two along the way, and it turns out, there are plenty of great reasons for middle-graders to spend time with poetry. Beyond the magic of story, beyond the beauty of words, verse has much to offer.

Here are some of the perks for readers, offered by five different elements of poetry and novels in verse:

1. rhythm, rhyme, and repetition
  • aids comprehension and retention
  • helps readers anticipate words and meaning, nurturing a sense of competence

2. white space on the page
  • invites reader into the text (the page is not visually overwhelming)
  • invites reader into the story (encourages reflection and response)

3. word play, imagery, and figurative language
  • builds vocabulary and language skills
  • entertains and enlightens (keeps reading fun!)
  • encourages creative thinking

4. emotional impact
  • builds empathy
  • allows readers to explore difficult topics without being overwhelmed (the dark/heavy can be more accessible and more palatable when balanced with spare or “lean” storytelling and white space)

5. economy of words
  • increases sense of accomplishment, confidence, and competence (verse novels are often “quick reads”, which means less enthusiastic readers manage to reach The End)
  • improves readers' own storytelling skills (the lean storytelling common in verse novels models the importance of choosing words and details with care)

With all these benefits (and this isn’t an exhaustive list), how wonderful it is to put verse into kids’ hands! And there are so very many choices – something for every taste: historical and contemporary, nonfiction and memoir, diverse voices, own voices, silly, serious, sporty, nerdy, and even celebrations of poetry itself. 

Challenge yourself to spend time reading something in verse this month, and if possible, share it with a young reader. 😀 Don't know where to start? You can find excellent lists of middle grade verse novels and poetry online -- check out author Sarah Tregay's website and the sneak peek lists on the Poetry for Children blog (home of Poetry Friday). Still unsure? Feel free to get in touch via the comment section if you'd like some specific recommendations. 

Happy poetry month!

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