It’s National Poetry Day here in the UK.

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I love, love, love poems. I think they’re about as perfect as the printed word can get. What surprises me is how many people profess to ‘hate’ poetry, or think poetry is ‘pretentious’ or claim they don’t understand poetry.

Mostly I think it is because they fear poetry. I think they’re afraid they won’t understand it, so they don’t even try.

I totally admit that poems by say, Sylvia Plath or T.S. Eliot might be more than a little challenging, but there are all sorts of poems for all sorts of occasions, and some of them are brilliant fun, and some of them are sad and thoughtful, and some of them are not complicated at all, and just do exactly what it says on the tin. Poems, after all, are just songs which aren’t set to music. If you think of them like that, they suddenly become a lot more accessible.

Today, try to share a poem with your child at home, or with your children at school. It doesn’t have to be long, or worthy, or profound. I would suggest, short, fun poems that make people laugh, as being ideal.

I taught Oscar a poem to share at school. We walk to school every morning. It takes ten minutes, and in that ten minutes I taught him this:

Ode to a Goldfish:

Oh

Wet

Pet

by Ogden Nash.

He thought it was hilarious.  He loved the fact it was a joke. He loved the fact it was short and memorable, and he was intensely proud, reciting it to his teacher, who laughed out loud when she heard it. Exactly the right response to make him even prouder. He will remember that moment forever.

I left them arranging for him to go and recite it to the school’s pet goldfish later in the day. He was overjoyed.

Don’t pass on your fears, if you have them. Help children to grow up celebrating and revelling in the written word in all of its forms.

If you don’t want to recite poetry yourself, then use Youtube to help you. Michael Rosen has an entire Youtube channel all to himself. He has filmed himself performing all kinds of brilliant poems that children absolutely love. Try searching for his poem about chocolate cake, or the poem called Strict.

Benjamin Zephaniah also has some fantastic performance poetry on Youtube. His poem about being kind to turkeys at Christmas is always a favourite with my children.

Happy National Poetry Day

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