“Chicka chicka boom boom! Will there be enough room?”
“Goodnight clocks and goodnight socks….”
“A cow says MOO. A sheep says BAA. Three singing pigs say LA LA LA!”
Sound familiar? It seems like every popular children’s book that we check out at the library or purchase at a bookstore — especially those written for our youngest of readers — always contains repetitive words and memorable rhymes.
“That’s because, starting at a very young age, children are naturally receptive to poetry,” explains Katherine Litwin, library director at the Poetry Foundation, the Chicago-based nonprofit dedicated to sharing and advancing poetry.
“And there are so many benefits to those who are exposed to it. The rhymes and repetition yield a love of words, as well as the ability to think critically and build trust in one’s own capacity to understand and respond to what’s around them,” Litwin says.
While she thinks poetry is a great way to connect creatively with children at any time, Litwin, who is a mom herself, says she has witnessed the need for poetry as a “a source of fun, joy and solace” even more in the last 18 months.
Recognizing this while continuing its mission of placing poetry before the largest possible audience, the Poetry Foundation is offering many virtual events that you and your young poets can “attend” this school year.
Young People’s Poetry Day: September 25th
On Saturday, September 25th from 11 a.m. to 11:40 a.m. (CT), the Poetry Foundation is hosting its annual celebration of young people and poetry, also known as Young People’s Poetry Day, which this year will feature the well-known poet and author Marilyn Nelson. Nelson is known for her examination of complex issues around race, feminism and the ongoing trauma of slavery; she has won the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children, the prestigious NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature, and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation, among others.
Normally held in person, Young People’s Poetry Day has been reconfigured to be an enjoyable online experience.
“We tried our best to keep the event similar to how it’s always been, so there will still be a central reading from our featured poet, followed by a live Q&A session and poetry activity, which will be led by a staff member at the Poetry Foundation and something viewers can take with them to finish or add to later,” says Litwin.
Readings for Young People Series: October 9th, November 13th and December 11th
Another way poetry can be a part of your kids’ back-to-school experience this year is through the Poetry Foundation’s Readings for Young People series.
These monthly events include a reading from a featured poet, as well as an exercise based on the reading like a writing prompt or craft.
“Kwame Alexander is our featured poet for October, Jillian Tamaki for November and Janet Wong for December,” says Litwin. “All are great and wonderful poets who engage in different aspects of creative work.”
If you’re not available on these scheduled back-to-school reading dates, most of these events will be recorded and published on the Poetry Foundation’s website for you to view at your leisure; similarly, if you’re interested in watching previous readings, many are available on the website, as well.
Poetry Explorers and more
One more youth program that is currently in the process of being rolled out for the school year is the Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Explorers, which includes interactive videos that feature a series of poems as well as a craft or activity for young poets and their families.
“In these videos, Stefania Gomez, our education and youth services assistant will lead viewers through a poem, modeling one way to demystify poetry and respond to poetry,” explains Litwin. “By being shown a creative manner of looking at poetry and noticing what qualities make up a poem, viewers quickly realize that their natural responses to poetry are the right responses. In other words, however they want to respond to a poem is the right way.”
Plus, Litwin says that when parents observe how staff members approach discussing poems with young poets, they feel more comfortable repeating these same steps and engaging in poetry with their own children at home.
The events are all free of charge, open to the public and include live captioning, ASL interpretation and other accommodations, if requested.
To register for any of these, or if you’re interested in checking out others, visit poetryfoundation.org/events.
For more information about the Poetry Foundation and its programming for children (as well as all ages), download the app, POETRY – The Poetry Foundation, or follow them on Instagram @poetryfoundation.